Xfinity Series Spotlight: Brandon Jones

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Brandon Jones was a fan of team owner Richard Childress long before he had the chance to drive for him.

“I think it was my first race at Las Vegas,” Jones told NBC Sports. “He was in a hurry, Richard’s always in a hurry, but I was like, ‘Hey!’ I didn’t even know what to say to him. And now, thank gosh last year I got an opportunity to drive with him a little bit, and now we’re best friends. You can come in his office and kick back and have a normal conversation, so it’s great.”

Jones, now 19, was given a five-race opportunity in 2015. After earning two top-five finishes, Jones received a full-time ride for 2016 driving the No. 33 Chevrolet.

“It was a grin on my face, that’s for sure,” Jones said about getting the phone call.

It was also a huge relief because Jones had contemplated many different career paths, such as the military or welding. Cars were always a love of his though and Jones isn’t one to be idle for too long or work behind a desk.

The Rookie of the Year candidate qualified for the inaugural Xfinity Series Chase on the strength of 11 top-10 finishes.

Entering Saturday’s race at Dover International Speedway, Jones has work to do if he wants to advance in the Chase. A 26th-place finish at Kentucky Speedway has put him 11th on the Chase grid. But there’s no other team he would rather be with in that position.

The following Q&A has been edited and condensed.

NBC Sports: The Gales (Bubba and Cale) played a huge role in getting your racing career started, how did you connect with them?

Jones: I didn’t come from a family that was in NASCAR or any form of racing, but we’ve always been car people. We met Cale through Kevin Harvick Inc. when he was driving the Rheem car, and knew some people at Rheem through their contact and just got to know Cale really well. One day we got invited to go down to Mobile, Alabama, to drive a Legends car with him and his dad to see how we liked it and to hang out down there in his hometown. Ended up falling in love with it as soon as I got in that thing.

His dad was also helping another kid in Georgia where we were living at the time, Spencer Davis, so we went out there after school every day and drove his truck. We’d take turns and then it led to my family getting a truck with him. Then we did the same thing but with our own vehicles, and we had just one big race at the end of the year and started the next year off with the full-time season in that super truck division. Lanier (Raceplex) and Gresham (Motorsports Park) were the two tracks that we ran, so that’s kind of how I got my start. I did that for a year before we moved on to a Late Model division; then started working in the K&N Series some, followed by ARCA.

NBC Sports: You started out at an older age than what is considered the norm, so did you feel like you had to work harder to earn your way?

Jones: I was 13 when I started, and six or seven is the go-kart age usually. I think we did it right. We didn’t just jump right into a race; we started just by running laps. We’d have headsets on and two-seaters and all kinds of stuff. I think that helped me kind of catch up with everything. You could tell when Spencer (Davis) was out there with me because he had thousands of go-kart races (under his belt) before we had raced the trucks, which is so different but still, he had that racing background and he had that mindset of how to win a race. So you could tell the confidence level for sure, but I feel like now I’m starting to level off with everybody and get really comfortable with these cars.

NBC Sports: There’s an actor named Brandon Jones who is also on Twitter with a very similar handle to yours, have you ever gotten tagged in his tweets?

Jones: Oh yeah, for sure. I probably got some of their followers, too. You can tell, ‘That one was probably not meant to follow me.’ (Musician) Colt Ford and people like that. It’s pretty cool.

NBC Sports: Being an outdoors person, what do you enjoy doing away from racing?

Jones: Bow hunting, fishing, things like that. All that stuff is so time-consuming, it’s like you don’t just go out there and pull your bow and be able to take a kill with an animal. Every day you’re trying to perfect yourself, so it’s pretty time-consuming. I try to go to the shop at least once or twice a week and then with the days I’m not racing I fill with bow shooting; I like tactical shooting, three-gun type stuff, so every day I’m slammed full.

NBC Sports: How did you get interested in wood building?

Jones: It was one of those YouTube things. You’re watching a video and then it’s like, ‘Oh, what is this?’ We’ve been doing all kinds of cool projects. My girlfriend, she loves to do pallet board type stuff, so we’ve been getting into that some. I built a really big outdoor farm table before, woodsheds, so we’ve done some pretty big stuff in the past, but I’ve tried to keep it small now.

NBC Sports: Have you ever gotten hurt doing anything outdoorsy or while building something?

Jones: I’ve never gotten hurt but frustrated, for sure. I have probably doubled my pricing in wood because I would cut one thing and I’ll be like, ‘This is not even matching up’ and I have to go back to Lowe’s and buy a whole new sheet or board. It was a pain in the beginning but I think it’s another thing you learn how to make mistakes and now I’ve gotten to where I know how to measure everything out.

NBC Sports: You have an interest in antique cars, correct?

Jones: Yeah, we had three cars built that we found behind barns rusted up. We kind of did a big transformation on them. I’ve got a Camaro with an RCR sp2 Xfinity motor in it from previous years; it’s a pretty cool little piece. My favorite one is my great grandfather’s truck that we had completely redone. We put a huge motor in it and painted it and everything, but it’s a got original wood and bed and everything.

NBC Sports: If you were to describe your personality would a Southern boy in jeans and boots and always outside be accurate?

Jones: Yep. Extremely outdoorsy. I just enjoy time out there and time on the ranch. I love, love being in the woods and being away from the city-type. I’ve done both. I’ve been in the city before, grew up in Atlanta, so I was dead smack in the middle of everything, and I think that’s why I probably grew so much to the country fields. It’s pretty funny, my dad laughs at me because they used to do 2,000 head of cattle when he was growing up my age so he grew up in the country life and now he’s like, ‘I gotta get away from it and be in the city.’ But I did it opposite; I’m into the cows and the farming and all that stuff, so he laughs and says a little bit of that wore off on me.

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Drivers to watch in NASCAR Cup Series race at Charlotte Roval

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The lineup for the NASCAR Cup Series playoffs Round of 8 will be decided in Sunday’s race at the Charlotte Motor Speedway Roval.

Entering the race, the final event in the Round of 12, Austin Cindric, William Byron, Christopher Bell and Alex Bowman are below the cutline. Bowman will miss the race — and thus the cutoff — as he continues to battle concussion-like symptoms. Noah Gragson is scheduled to drive the No. 48 Chevrolet Sunday.

Cindric is tied with Chase Briscoe for the eighth playoff spot, but Briscoe would claim it on the tiebreaker. Byron is 11 points back, and Bell is 33. Hendrick Motorsports has appealed the penalty to Byron that dropped him below the cutline. That appeal is scheduled to be heard Thursday.

MORE: Hailie Deegan to make Xfinity debut at Las Vegas

Any playoff driver who wins Sunday’s race and isn’t already qualified — Chase Elliott qualified for the Round of 8 by winning last week at Talladega Superspeedway — automatically advances to the Round of 8.

Drivers to watch Sunday at the Roval (2 p.m., ET, NBC), the final road-course race of the season:

FRONTRUNNERS

Chase Elliott

  • Points position: 1st
  • Last three races: Won at Talladega, 32nd at Texas, 2nd at Bristol
  • Past at CMS Roval: Won in 2019 and 2020

Elliott is the clear favorite to win a second championship. He won Sunday at Talladega to advance to the Round of 8 and can relax Sunday at Charlotte having punched his ticket. Relaxing isn’t likely, however, as Elliott will be among the favorites to win.

Ryan Blaney

  • Points position: 2nd
  • Last three races: 2nd at Talladega, 4th at Texas, 30th at Bristol
  • Past at CMS Roval: Won in 2018.

Blaney continues along a path that could result in him winning the Cup championship without winning a race. He came within an eyelash of winning Sunday at Talladega but fell victim to Chase Elliott’s last-lap charge. He should be a threat Sunday at the Roval, where he has four straight top 10s.

Kyle Larson

  • Points position: 6th
  • Last three races: 18th at Talladega, 9th at Texas, 5th at Bristol
  • Past at CMS Roval: Won in 2021

Larson’s last win — and his last top-four finish — came at Watkins Glen seven races ago. He is 18 points over the cutline entering Sunday’s race.

QUESTIONS TO ANSWER

Austin Cindric

  • Points position: 9th
  • Last three races: 9th at Talladega, 15th at Texas, 20th at Bristol
  • Past at CMS Roval: Sunday will mark his first Cup race. Has three top threes in four Xfinity starts.

Cindric hasn’t won since the season-opening Daytona 500 and is one of five drivers still in the playoffs who own only one victory this year. His ninth-place run at Talladega ended a streak of four straight finishes of 12th or worse.

MORE: NBC Sports NASCAR Power Rankings

Daniel Suarez

  • Points position: 7th
  • Last three races: 8th at Talladega, 12th at Texas, 19th at Bristol
  • Past at CMS Roval: Best finish in four starts is 13th

Suarez is 12 points above the cutline entering Sunday’s race. He has never led a lap at the Roval and has never finished in the top 10.

Chase Briscoe

  • Points position: 8th
  • Last three races: 10th at Talladega, 5th at Texas, 14th at Bristol
  • Past at CMS Roval: Finished 22nd last year in his only Cup start

Briscoe is teetering on top of the cutline in search of a spot in the Round of 8. He hasn’t won since the fourth race of the year at Phoenix and had a poor performance at the Roval last year.

 

 

AJ Allmendinger to return to NASCAR Cup Series in 2023

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AJ Allmendinger is getting another shot at success in the NASCAR Cup Series.

Kaulig Racing announced Wednesday that Allmendinger, currently chasing the Xfinity Series championship, will drive full-time in Kaulig entries in the Cup Series next season.

Allmendinger raced in Cup from 2007 to 2018 but won only one time — at Watkins Glen International — across those years. He moved to the Xfinity Series part-time with Kaulig in 2019, winning on the Charlotte Motor Speedway Roval. He won twice in 2020 and five times in 2021 and is a favorite to win the Xfinity championship this year. He has won four Xfinity races this season, including last Sunday at Talladega.

MORE: Hailie Deegan to make Xfinity debut at Las Vegas

Allmendinger, 40, will drive Kaulig’s No. 16 car in Cup next year. Justin Haley will drive the team’s No. 31.

Chandler Smith will replace Allmendinger in the Xfinity Series next year.

“It’s crazy how the last five years of my life have gone,” Allmendinger said. “More than anything, I love this organization. I know the fans get tired of me talking about all the men and women of Kaulig Racing. This is not a race team. This is a huge family.

“There will be tough times and growing pains, for sure. But I love what they’re about, and they believe in me. I’ll be OK whether it’s good or bad.”

MORE: Chase Elliott atop NASCAR Power Rankings

Team owner Matt Kaulig said Allmendinger is “one of the best in the world at every type of track. He’s done so much for Kaulig Racing and our program. He’s a gigantic part of what we’re building.”

Team officials said Allmendinger has a multi-year contract.

 

 

 

 

 

NASCAR viewer’s guide for Charlotte Roval

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Sunday provides a final chance for drivers to advance to the Round of 8 and keep their Cup championship hopes alive.

Talladega winner Chase Elliott is the only driver who has advanced to the next round. That leaves seven spots available going into Sunday’s race at the Charlotte Roval (2 p.m. ET on NBC).

Chase Briscoe holds the final transfer spot by a tiebreaker over Austin Cindric. At least for now.

William Byron is 11 points behind both drivers, but Hendrick Motorsports will appeal Byron’s 25-point penalty from Texas on Thursday. Should Hendrick win and Byron get those points back, he would move into a transfer spot.

There’s just part of what to watch for in Sunday’s race.

Favorites to be No. 20

This season remains tied for the most different winners in series history at 19, but there are a few candidates who could become the 20th different winner this year on Sunday.

Among the favorites to do so:

Ryan Blaney, who came close to winning last week at Talladega, won the inaugural Cup race at the Roval in 2018.

Martin Truex Jr., who has four career Cup wins on road courses, still seeks his first victory of the season.

Michael McDowell, who is coming off a third-place finish at Talladega, has had a career-high 12 top-10 finishes this season, including top 10s in each of the last four road course events this year.

Will history repeat?

Last year, the four drivers eliminated after the Roval were Kevin Harvick, Alex Bowman, Christopher Bell and William Byron.

Harvick was eliminated in the first round this year, but Byron (-11 to the cutline) and Bell (-33) are in jeopardy of being eliminated in this round again. Bowman stated Tuesday that he will miss his second consecutive race because of continued concussion symptoms. He will be among the four eliminated from title contention.

Bowman missed last weekend’s race because of concussion-like symptoms suffered at Texas. A decision on if he’ll be able to race at the Roval will come later this week.

Will chaos continue?

Consider what some of the former Roval winners have endured on their way to the checkered flag:

In 2019, Chase Elliott drove into the Turn 1 wall on a restart while the leader. He recovered to win.

In 2020, Elliott overcame a loose wheel to win for the second year in a row.

In 2021, Kyle Larson won after his team changed batteries and put the alternator belt back on.

Could a similar fate be in store for this year’s winner? Or will they have a cleaner day?

Entry lists

Thirty-nine drivers are entered including IndyCar driver Conor Daly, former Formula 1 driver Daniil Kvyat, former 24 Hours of Le Mans winner Mike Rockenfeller and former 24 Hours of Daytona winner Joey Hand. JJ Yeley will drive the No. 51 for Cody Ware, who stated that he would skip this event because of his ankle injury at Texas the footwork needed on a road course.

Charlotte Roval Cup entry list

The Xfinity entry list includes 41 drivers for 38 spots. Among those joining the series regulars are IndyCar driver Marco Andretti and former F1 driver Daniil Kvyat.

Charlotte Roval Xfinity entry list

This week’s schedule and forecast

(All times Eastern)

Saturday, Oct. 8

Forecast: Partly cloudy with a high of 66 degrees. No chance of rain during the Xfinity race.

  • 10 – 10:30 a.m. — Xfinity practice (NBC Sports App)
  • 10:30 – 11:30 a.m. — Xfinity qualifying (NBC Sports App)
  • 12 – 1 p.m. — Cup practice (NBC Sports App, USA Network coverage begins at 12:30 p.m.)
  • 1 – 2 p.m. — Cup qualifying (USA Network, NBC Sports App)
  • 3 p.m. — Xfinity race (67 laps, 155.44 miles; NBC, Peacock, Performance Racing Network, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio)

Sunday, Oct. 9

Forecast: Sunny with a high of 64 degrees. No chance of rain during the race.

  • 2 p.m. — Cup race (109 laps, 252.88 miles; NBC, Performance Racing Network, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio)

 

Hailie Deegan to make Xfinity debut at Las Vegas

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Hailie Deegan announced Tuesday that she will make her Xfinity Series debut Oct. 15 Las Vegas Motor Speedway on NBC and Peacock.

The 21-year-old Deegan is in her second full-time season in the Camping World Truck Series. She finished a career-high sixth in that series last weekend at Talladega Superspeedway.

She will drive the No. 07 car for SS Green Light Racing with Jeff Lefcourt.