Rain Man: Justin Marks masters the elements, Mid-Ohio for first Xfinity Series win

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Justin Marks didn’t have the best car under dry conditions, but he was the best driver when Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course was covered in rain.

The part-time driver of the No. 42 for Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet used his years of sports car racing to lead a race high 43 laps – the first of his career – to earn his first NASCAR Xfinity Series win on Saturday.

Marks victory in his 25th start came in a race filled with eight cautions for 32 laps and countless cars going off track -including Marks on Lap 32 – as rain came and went over the Lexington, Ohio, road course. It returned in its hardest form on the final lap around the 13-turn road course, as Marks managed a healthy distance over the field to finish with a 3.7 second lead.

It could have been worse. Marks had a 24-second lead when the race’s final caution waved on Lap 72.

“These are as tough conditions as you could put drivers in,” Marks told NBC Sports. “My specialty is road racing in the rain in these stock cars. I don’t get much of an opportunity to do it.  When that opportunity presents itself, you really have to take advantage of it.”

Marks gave CGR its second win of the year after Kyle Larson won at Pocono Raceway,  a race that was shortened by rain.

“It means the world,” said an increasingly emotional Marks, who has 64 starts across NASCAR’s top three divisions and is co-owner of HScott Motorsports’ K&N series teams. “I’m not a big time race car driver, I’ve had a big career with a lot of rides and stuff. Just means a lot to be able to get an opportunity with Chip Ganassi Racing and to get a win. I wish my family was here.”

MORE: Justin Marks more than a part-time driver

Marks has made 12 starts this season in the No. 42 car. Before 2016 he had never made more than five starts in any of his previous six seasons. His previous best finish was sixth at Mid-Ohio in 2014.

“My hat’s off to Justin Marks,” said Sam Hornish Jr, who started from the pole and led eight laps.  “I generally hold myself as a pretty decent rain racer, even given the opportunity there at the end I couldn’t do anything with him.”

The top five was filled by Marks, Hornish, Ryan Blaney, Ty Dillon and Justin Allgaier.

MORE: Mid-Ohio race results

MORE: Xfinity point standings

HOW JUSTIN MARKS WON: Justin Marks stayed on-track and sped away from the field in the rain on a restart with three laps to go, finishing more than three seconds ahead of Sam Hornish Jr.

WHO HAD A GOOD DAY:   Pole-sitter Sam Hornish Jr. fell from second to 20th after spinning twice on Lap 19, the second restart under wet conditions. The Ohio native then went off course into the dirt on Lap 20 and almost got stuck, bringing out the caution. Hornish fought back to finish second for his second top-three finish in his three starts this year … Ryan Blaney finished third in his first start at Mid-Ohio … Brendan Gaughan finished eighth after being involved in a Lap 33 restart crash that tore the right side sheet metal off his car and being in multiple spins … Erik Jones finished sixth with a mashed up right-rear quarter panel after the five-car accident on Lap 33

WHO HAD A BAD DAY: Owen Kelly, competing in his first race of any kind in three years, took the lead on a Lap 10 restart on rain tires then spun going through the esses. Kelly later briefly led under caution, but finished 16th … TJ Bell brought out the second caution when he was the first driver to get stuck in the dirt after sliding off track on Lap 15. Bell would bring out the eighth and final caution after getting stuck in the dirt … On Lap 29, Daniel Suarez brought out the fourth caution for getting stuck in the dirt. The No. 19 finished 23rd, a lap down … On the restart on Lap 33, Erik Jones made contact with Andy Lally, spinning them both. Jones than was ran into by Nelson Piquet Jr, damaging both cars. Piquet finished 38thKenny Habul was involved in multiple accidents before getting permanently stuck in the first with 20 to go, finishing 36th.

NOTABLE: Justin Marks is the fourth different winner in the first four Xfinity races at Mid-Ohio. Marks is also the second first-time Xfinity winner this season after Daniel Suarez’ win at Michigan. In Xfinity Series history, Marks is the 11th driver to earn his first win on a road course.

Quote of the Day: “In the dry, I feel like we could win, but Justin just went out there and was a monster in the wet.” – Sam Hornish Jr. after finished second.

NEXT: Food City 300 at Bristol Motor Speedway on Aug. 19 at 7:30 p.m. ET on USA Network.

Xfinity playoff grid after Indianapolis

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Chase Briscoe‘s continued dominance of the Xfinity Series over the weekend on the Indianapolis road course ensured no additional drivers locked themselves into the 12-driver playoff field.

Through 13 races, Briscoe and four other drivers have qualified for the playoffs via race wins. Briscoe, who has five race wins, leads the field with 28 playoff points.

The last two drivers currently in the top 12 are Riley Herbst (+19 points above cutline) and Brandon Brown (+6 points).

The first four drivers outside the top 12 are Myatt Snider (-6), Alex Labbe (-32), Jeremy Clements (-49) and Josh Williams (-57).

Cup Series playoff grid after Brickyard 400

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With Kevin Harvick‘s victory Sunday in the Brickyard 400, no additional drivers locked themselves into the Cup Series playoff field.

But there was some movement at the bottom of the playoff grid as drivers jockey to make the 16-car field.

After he missed the race due to his COVID-19 diagnosis, Jimmie Johnson fell from 12th to 15th on the grid. He’s now 36 points above the cutline.

Matt DiBenedetto earned stage points in each stage before finishing 19th. He moved from 14th to 12th in the standings.

After earning stage points in both stages Sunday, Austin Dillon has cracked the top 16, moving up one spot. He has a six-point advantage over Erik Jones, who crashed out of Sunday’s race and had a 14-point advantage over Dillon entering the weekend.

With his ninth-place finish Sunday, Bubba Wallace is now within reach of the top 16. He sits at 19th, 42 points back from 16th.

Here’s the full playoff grid.

Oval or road course? Cup drivers address future of Brickyard 400

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For 27 years, the Cup Series has competed at Indianapolis Motor Speedway with its annual Brickyard 400. All 27 of those races have been run exclusively on the track’s traditional 2.5-mile oval.

But following Saturday’s Xfinity Series race on the track’s 2.4-mile, 14-turn road course, an obvious question has been raised:

Should the Brickyard 400 remain on the oval, where passing is made difficult due to a combination of the rules package and the design of the track, or should moving it to the road course be considered?

“I would never vote for that,” Kevin Harvick declared last week before he won his third Brickyard 400 on Sunday. “I love everything about the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. For me it is all about the oval … racing on the traditional track because for me I am kind of old school and I think that the Cup cars belong and really started the Brickyard 400.

“That was kind of what it was always meant to be, that iconic one-off, just the Cup cars event. I think with the Xfinity cars and the trucks and (ARCA Menards) cars and all the things that used to race at IRP (Indianapolis Raceway Park), it was a great event. Hopefully the road course can kind of take that role that IRP used to have and be able to bring the Indy cars and NASCAR together to add to that event at the Speedway. For me personally, I would never vote for the Cup cars to not run on the oval.”

Harvick is joined in that camp by his Stewart-Haas Racing teammate, Aric Almirola, who finished third in Sunday’s race for his first top five and top-10 finish at Indy.

“I hope that we never stop running the oval,” Almirola said. “I just think it’s one of these places that regardless if it puts on the greatest race or not, it’s historic. It’s just a special place. It’s hard to explain when you don’t grow up a racer and you don’t aspire to come to race at Indy.

“But for me, I grew up watching stock car racing and dirt sprint car racing. I grew up watching Thursday Night Thunder, seeing so many guys go from USAC racing and sprint car racing to racing at Indy. It’s something I’ve always kept up with, always dreamed about getting the opportunity to race here. I get that opportunity now.”

Matt Kenseth, who finished second Sunday in his 20th Brickyard 400, said the Cup Series “should be” on the oval. But the Chip Ganassi Racing driver is open to the idea of Cup using the road course in some manner.

 “I think it’s one of those racetracks that we need to race at as long as we can,” Kenseth said of the oval. “It’s arguably the most famous speedway in the world, or one of them.

“To be able to race on the ovals with the Cup cars, which is the highest form of stock car racing here, we should be on the big track as well. I don’t think it would be bad to maybe test the road course and look into it, maybe do a second race on a road course, kind of like the IndyCars did this week.

“I really do think the Brickyard 400 has a lot of prestige. It’s not a southern race, but similar to the Southern 500, races like that. I think there’s a few of those races you sure would hate to see disappear.”

Crew chief describes ‘frightening’ scene on pit road at Indy

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Crew chief Todd Gordon said it was “frightening” to see rear tire changer Zach Price hit on pit road and then try to scoot away from cars during Sunday’s Cup race at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

Price, who changes tires for Ryan Blaney’s team, was injured when he was struck by Brennan Poole’s car during a melee near the entrance of pit road early in the race.

Gordon, speaking Monday on “The Morning Drive” on SiriusXM NASCAR Radio, said indications are that Price’s injury was a “fracture someplace in the knee area.”

Price was treated and released from an Indianapolis hospital on Sunday night and traveled home with the team. Gordon said on SiriusXM NASCAR Radio that Price was scheduled to see a doctor Monday.

“Just hope to get him back and get him back going again and healthy,” Gordon said.

Gordon described what he saw as cars made contact.

“A really frightening moment for me,” he said on SiriusXM NASCAR Radio. “I was really terrorized when I saw (Price) drag himself back across the pit box arms only for a while there. As the situation kind of progressed and the medical staff was working with him, I could see in his face he was better off than I thought he was to start with.

“Fortunate that the guys got up and got at least in the air. The jackman (Graham Stoddard) got on top of the car. Just one of those terrible situations. I felt like those accidents happened mid-pit road. That’s why I picked way back there to be behind it.”

Said Justin Allgaier, who was involved in the accident on pit road that led to six cars eventually being eliminated:  “The No. 15 (Poole) actually got in the back of me. I didn’t know if I got the gentleman on (Blaney’s pit crew) or not. Once the wreck started happening in front of us and we all got bottled-up there, one car after another were getting run into.”

Indianapolis’ pit road is the most narrow of all the tracks the Cup Series races. The two travel lanes are 24 feet wide. The pit stall for each team is 15 feet wide.