Cole Whitt explains actions on final restart: ‘Sorry it happened’

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HOMESTEAD, Fla. — Cole Whitt expressed remorse for the final restart but that won’t change the result for Justin Allgaier and Erik Jones, who each saw their chance of winning the Xfinity championship end as the green flag waved on the final restart with three laps to go.

“It was pretty disrespectful, really, and I strongly hope that somebody is able to talk to him about that,’’ Jones said about Whitt’s actions. “I’d really hate to see something like that happen again.

The situation unfolded after a late caution brought the field to pit road — except Whitt.

He said he did not pit because his team had used its allotment of tires. That meant he would be in front of the field on much older tires and have the championship contenders behind him.

Jones called Whitt’s action “kind of insane.’’

Whitt said he chose the outside line to give the contenders room to get by him if he didn’t get restarted quickly.

It seemed like a good idea. In theory.

But it didn’t work out that way. Whitt got a poor restart and blocked the cars in the top lane behind him. Jones and Allgaier never had a chance to race for the championship in those final laps, as Sadler and eventual winner and Xfinity champion Daniel Suarez pulled away from the bottom lane.

“We’re sitting here,’’ Allgaier said in the media center after finishing sixth, “and not standing on that (championship) stage over there like I think all of us would have liked to have been.’’

So why did Whitt do what he did?

“We didn’t expect everybody to come in like that, and next thing I knew I was like this is going to be handful,’’ Whitt said after finishing 18th. “I thought if I was on the outside, I would have the most room for them to go underneath me if anything happened and I couldn’t get going.

“With (Jones) hitting me, I couldn’t get going. It was just making me spin the tires worse. If you could redo it, you would change the way you did it. It was not like we were out there to screw anybody over. I hate that it worked out that way. I was just following what I was told to do and that was just stay out because we were out of tires.

“It’s not like you meant to do it. I think the one thing you can say at least we were out there to run good. I only had two weeks to work with this team and come out here and do all right. We were tying to run good for our team.’’

Jones was dumbfounded about Whitt’s restart — or lack of it in Jones’ opinion.

“You can’t pass before the start/finish line,’’ Jones said. “It would have been one thing if he would got up and started rolling but you can’t go anywhere before the start/finish line. It’s really frustrating. I don’t mean to bag on the guy so much but it’s like, ‘Hey, we’re up here racing for the championship.’

“Maybe we don’t even win it if he pits and lets us move up. At least we would have had a fair shot of it. I kind of feel we got robbed of our chance to race for it.’’

Asked if he owed Jones an explanation, Whitt said: “I know he’s pissed. He’s going to go on to Cup and win championships there and be the next guy anyway. He’s set up in the long run. It’s not like I’m set up to screw him. I just couldn’t get going, spinning my tires. Simple as that. The more he hits, the more I spin my tires. Just a crappy situation.’’

Asked if he should talk to all the championship contenders, Whitt said: “Everyone feels that they were going to win this championship. Sorry it happened.’’

Daniel Hemric fastest in final practice; Kevin Harvick second

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KANSAS CITY, Kan. — Daniel Hemric turned the fastest lap Friday in the final Cup practice at Kansas Speedway, turning a 177.830 mph lap in his No. 8 Chevrolet for Richard Childress Racing.

Kevin Harvick was second followed by Kurt Busch, Brad Keselowski (who paced the first practice) and Ryan Blaney.

Hemric has yet to announce a ride for 2020 after RCR announced last month that the rookie would be replaced by Tyler Reddick next season.

Ricky Stenhouse Jr., Kyle Busch, Martin Truex Jr., Daniel Suarez and Aric Almirola rounded out the top 10.

Here are the rankings speeds of the other playoff drivers: Denny Hamlin 12th; Alex Bowman 15th; Joey Logano 16th; Clint Bowyer 19th; Chase Elliott 20th; and William Byron 22nd.

Click here to see where things stand in the playoffs standings entering Sunday’s second-round cutoff race at Kansas.

Click here for speeds from the final practice at Kansas.

Click here for the speeds during the first Cup practice of the weekend at Kansas.

Ryan Preece praises team for its work after hauler fire

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KANSAS CITY, Kan. — Ryan Preece praised his team for converting teammate Chris Buescher’s backup car into Preece’s primary car Friday after the hauler carrying Preece’s cars and equipment caught fire this week en route to Kansas Speedway.

“I know some of the guys haven’t had much sleep, very proud of them,” Preece said.

The team’s hauler pulled over near New Columbia, Illinois, on Thursday after a fire in the rear axle area that spread to the hauler. A team spokesperson told NBC Sports that crew chief Eddie Pardue and a couple of team members flew there to take what could be salvaged before driving to Kansas City.

The team spokesperson said that the lockers and uniforms in the hauler were heavily damaged. Both cars had damage with the backup car suffering smoke damage.

NASCAR allowed JTG Daugherty Racing to enter the garage at 8 a.m. ET Friday — five hours before the garage was scheduled to open — and allowed members from both JTG Daugherty teams to work on the car. Preece said he was there with the team when it arrived and worked on the interior as the crew converted the car.

“We’re in it as a team,” Preece said. “I wasn’t going to show up later in the afternoon. I wanted them to know that I was right there with them. I wanted to help in every way I could.”

Preece said his car was loose in the first practice session Friday at Kansas Speedway. He was 32nd on the speed chart in that session, making it on track about 10 minutes after practice began.

Brad Keselowski fastest in first practice at Kansas; Kyle Busch makes big save

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KANSAS CITY, Kan. — Brad Keselowski turned the fastest lap with a minute remaining in Friday afternoon’s first Cup practice at Kansas Speedway.

The 176.499-mph lap by the No. 2 Ford of Team Penske nipped a 176.389 mph lap by the No. 10 Ford of Aric Almirola.

Daniel Suarez was third, followed by Denny Hamlin and Ryan Blaney. Kurt Busch, Paul Menard, Austin Dillon, Kevin Harvick and Daniel Hemric rounded out the top 10.

Here’s how other playoff drivers fared during the practice:

Kyle Larson 11th; Joey Logano 13th; Clint Bowyer 15th; William Byron 20th; Alex Bowman 21st; Kyle Busch (who had an impressive save; video below) 22nd; Chase Elliott 23rd.

Click here to see where things stand in the playoffs standings entering Sunday’s second-round cutoff race at Kansas.

Click here for the speeds during the first Cup practice of the weekend at Kansas.

Gray Gaulding out Friday after suspected allergic reaction

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KANSAS CITY, Kan. — A Stewart-Haas Racing plane made an unscheduled stop in St. Louis on Friday after Gray Gaulding had a suspected allergic reaction.

SS Green Light Racing confirmed Gaulding had an issue en route to Kansas City. A Stewart-Haas Racing spokesperson confirmed that its plane made the unscheduled stop, and that emergency personnel came on board after the plane landed. Gaulding remained in St. Louis while the plane continued to Kansas City.

SS Green Light Racing stated that after arriving at the track, Gaulding went to the infield care center and was not cleared to drive Friday. Gaulding will be re-evaluated Saturday. J.J. Yeley drove the car for Gaulding in practice Friday.