Erik Jones completes three-race weekend with 12th in Sprint Cup race

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FORT WORTH, Texas – Standing on pit road following the second official Sprint Cup race of his career, Erik Jones didn’t look like someone who had completed a three-race, 1,021-mile weekend at Texas Motor Speedway.

But the 19 year old was starting to feel it.

“I’m ready to take the day off,” Jones said after finishing 12th in the No. 20 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota. “I don’t think I’ve ever run more than two races – a Truck and Xfinity race – in more than one weekend. At this point, I’m feeling fine, but I can definitely feeling it coming on. I’ll be worn out tonight.”

Jones felt that way due to being JGR’s choice to once again fill in for an unavailable Sprint Cup driver.

First there was completing Denny Hamlin‘s race at Bristol Motor Speedway in April. Then Jones substituted for Kyle Busch at Kansas Speedway while Busch recovered from injuries. That effort ended with Jones spinning and finishing 25 laps down. In both cases, Jones was unable to complete every lap.

That changed Sunday. Jones completed all 334 laps. That was despite having a blown tire in the middle of the race, a common theme throughout the field.

“I wish we could have been a little stronger there at the end,” Jones said. “We had that right front go down and it tore the nose up pretty good, so kind of took us out of a shot at a top-10. To still come home 12th is a good day for us. We worked hard all day to really keep the thing balanced and good and strong.”

The weekend and Jones’ opportunity to build a bond with crew chief Jason Ratcliff was complicated when a wet track canceled two practice sessions Saturday. That meant Jones entered Sunday with only the one hour and 25 minute practice session from Friday.

“I think over the day we learned more and more about each other,” Jones said. “Over the day, (I was) just getting a feel for Jason’s communication and what I was trying to relay to him to get the response I wanted on adjustments and it definitely evolved throughout the day.”

Jones ran as high as sixth, but his average running spot was 12th.

Between his three Sprint Cup races, Jones has discovered what more he needs to do.

“If you have any mistake like we did with the right front, it really takes you out of any shot you have to run well,” Jones said. “Just staying in it and staying out front, that’s the biggest thing you need to do.”

Jones didn’t know he would be attempting a tripleheader until Thursday afternoon when Kenseth’s final appeal was denied.

Then began the marathon weekend of competing in the Camping World Truck Series, the Xfinity Series and the Sprint Cup race.

“When everything came up this week, I said ‘Man, you’re going to have a full plate,'” said team owner Joe Gibbs. “We couldn’t be prouder of him … I think he’s special.”

Jones won the Truck race – his third of the year – and finished fourth in the Xfinity race at the track he earned his first series win at in April.

But prior to the his third Sprint Cup race, Jones opted not to pester Kenseth or even his Truck owner Kyle Busch for advice.

“I haven’t talked to Matt, I kind of let him take his weekend off,” Jones said. “I’d like to talk to him a little bit more about this style of racing and working with Jason and everything else.”

But before that talk and before his next three-race weekend at Phoenix, Jones looks toward Monday.

“I’ll take a nice day off tomorrow.”

Results, point standings after Kansas Xfinity race

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John Hunter Nemechek led the final 30 laps to win Saturday’s Xfinity Series race at Kansas Speedway for his first Xfinity win.

Nemechek beat Daniel Hemric, Elliott Sadler, Shane Lee and Tyler Reddick.

Nemechek is the third first-time winner this season.

Hemric finished second after leading 128 laps. He is winless this year and has finished in the top three 11 times.

Click here for the results.

Points

After earning his best finish since the July race at Daytona, Elliott Sadler trails Daniel Hemric by nine points.

The top four – which will advance to the championship round – is rounded out by Tyler Reddick (-12) and Christopher Bell (-22).

The eight driver playoff field is completed by Matt Tifft (one point back from Bell), Justin Allgaier (five points from Bell), Cole Custer (23 points back from Bell) and Austin Cindric (43 points back from Bell).

Hemric’s car was found to be too low in post-race inspection, which is a L1 penalty. L1 penalties can include the loss of 10-40 points (in the past has been a 10 point penalty) and can include the suspension of crew chief and/or other team members and a fine between $10,000- $40,000.

Click here for the point standings.

 

John Hunter Nemechek earns first Xfinity Series win

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John Hunter Nemechek bounced back from two pit stop miscues in the last 50 laps to earn his first Xfinity Series win Saturday at Kansas Speedway.

Nemechek, 21, led the final 30 laps. That was after he went from fifth to first on the final restart with 32 laps to go.

The son of former Cup driver Joe Nemechek earned the win in his 15th start.

Nemechek had to pass Daniel Hemric, who finished second after leading 128 laps.

“It means a lot, especially at Kansas,” Nemechek told NBC. “(In) 2004, I forget how old I was. But dad swept the weekend in the Xfinity Series and the Cup Series. It’s pretty special.”

The top five was completed by Elliott Sadler, Shane Lee and Tyler Reddick.

Nemechek pitted with Hemric with 50 laps to go and slid through his pit box. He left pit road three seconds behind Hemric.

When the final caution waved with 36 laps to go, Nemechek had to pit twice to tighten lug nuts.

“When that caution came I knew we had a chance,” Nemechek told NBC. “Luckily Daniel and I raced each other hard and clean all day. We got the track position and this thing was unreal to the end.”

When Nemechek took the checkered flag, he led Hemric by roughly five seconds. Hemric said he had a vibration over the last 15 laps.

STAGE 1 WINNER: Daniel Hemric

STAGE 2 WINNER: John Hunter Nemechek

MORE: Results, point standings

WHO HAD A GOOD RACE: Elliott Sadler earned his best finish since the July Daytona race (second) … Shane Lee placed fourth for his career-best finish … Tyler Reddick earned his first top five of the playoffs … Ryan Sieg placed ninth for his second top 10 of the season.

WHO HAD A BAD RACE: Playoff contenders Cole Custer, Justin Allgaier, Austin Cindric and Christopher Bell were all involved in a nine-car wreck on Lap 1. Only Custer finished the race (26th) … Brandon Jones was eliminated via a one-car incident on the ensuing restart … After being involved in the Lap 1 crash, Spencer Gallagher was eliminated in one-car incident on Lap 26 … After Bell and Jones, Ryan Preece completed the Joe Gibbs Racing trifecta. He was involved in an incident on the last lap of Stage 2 when he was turned from contact with Joey Gase. Preece finished 21st.

NOTABLE: John Hunter Nemechek is the third driver to earn his first Xfinity win of the season (Ross Chastain, Spencer Gallagher).

POST-RACE INSPECTION: Daniel Hemric’s No. 21 Chevy was found to too low, which is a L1 penalty. L1 penalties can include the loss of 10-40 points (in the past it has been 10-point penalty) and suspension of crew chief and/or other team members and a fine between $10,000 – $40,000.

WHAT’S NEXT: O’Reilly Auto Parts 300 at Texas Motor Speedway at 3:30 p.m. ET on Nov. 3. on NBCSN.

Video: Xfinity playoff contenders out after Lap 1 crash at Kansas

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Three of the eight playoff contenders were eliminated in a crash on the first lap of Saturday’s Xfinity race at Kansas Speedway, which opens the Round of 8.

Justin Allgaier, Christopher Bell, Austin Cindric and Cole Custer were involved in a nine-car wreck as the field raced through Turn 2. Allgaier, Bell and Cindric were eliminated while Custer’s team was able to make repairs to his No. 00 Ford.

It began when Allgaier got loose and made contact with Bell.

“Just hate it for everybody that we took out on Lap 1. It’s uncalled for, ” Allgaier told NBC. “That one’s on me.”

Bell, who won this race last year, told NBC he “didn’t really see much of anything” as the wreck developed. “Just heartbroken. This is one of my favorite race tracks we go to. Especially after the run I had last year. This was the race I was really looking forward to when we started the year back in February.”

Allgaier earned his second DNF of the playoffs while Bell and Cindric earned their first.

“It was just a racing incident,” Cindric said. “You don’t really expect something that big to happen in front of you on the first lap. … It is unfortunate that it happened that early. Huge points implications on my end and the owners championship end. I have to put my head down the next couple weeks and figure it out.”

Non-playoff drivers Michael Annett, Ryan Truex, Spencer Gallagher and Chase Briscoe were also involved.

The race restarted on Lap 12. The field was immediately slowed by a one-car incident involving Brandon Jones on the backstretch.

Kurt Busch fastest in final Cup practice at Kansas

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Kurt Busch led the way in the final practice session for Sunday’s Cup race at Kansas Speedway (2 p.m. ET on NBC).

The Stewart-Haas Racing driver posted a top speed of 186.226 mph.

The top five was completed by Erik Jones (186.104 mph), Aric Almirola (185.842), Kyle Busch (185.471) and Paul Menard (185.446).

MORE: Aric Almirola fastest in Saturday’s early practice

There were no incidents in the session.

Joey Logano, who was 12th fastest, recorded the most laps with 67.

Kyle Busch had the best 10-lap average at 183.094 mph.

Click here for the speed chart.