Jeremy Clements’ first Xfinity win felt ‘like it was meant to be’

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When crew chief Danny Gill saw Jeremy Clements and Matt Tifft go spinning off the track in the last corner of Road America, he instantly looked down at his timing and scoring screen.

Clements and his No. 51 Chevrolet still had a chance to win the Johnsonville 180.

With the field coming to take the white flag, the third-place car driven by Michael Annett was 10.7 seconds behind the leaders and their precarious situation.

Gill just hoped the starter on Clements’ car would cooperate.

“We seen the spin and we seen the car get back straight,” Gill said during the winner’s press conference. “I knew if he could just get it rolling that we still had the better race car. … Thank goodness for that starter on that Clements’ Racing engine.”

Clements, who has competed full-time in the Xfinity Series since 2011 and was making his 256th career start, thought he’d ruined his best shot at a getting his first NASCAR win after his pass of Tifft in Turn 14 went haywire.

“I definitely thought, ‘Wow, good job. Way to go. Could have won this race and you just gave it up,’ ” Clements said. “I just didn’t give up and luckily it worked out. It was like it was meant to be.”

Clements got back underway and took the white flag before Annett even got close to taking the lead. One 4.048-mile lap later, Clements locked himself into the playoffs with three races left in the regular season. He was mathematically out of contention to make it on points.

And Clements did it in a car that was built almost a decade ago.

“We’ve got to make a lot of sacrifices,” Clements said. “My dad (team owner Tony Clements) said already we run old stuff every week. This car was literally built in 2008. We build our own engines. We just try to bring stuff each year better and better as we can get more money to throw at it.”

The No. 51 Chevrolet Clements pulled into victory lane was also recently patched together. It was the same car Clements wrecked at Mid-Ohio two weeks ago when he plowed into the back of Spencer Gallagher as part of a five-car crash on Lap 53.

“It got threw back together and we won with it and I’m just so shocked about that,” Clements said. “That is just amazing to me to take a car like that that was killed, the front end was destroyed and (Gill) was on suicide watch. I (was) too, but I hate it. But it’s racing, you’re going to wreck these things. That’s the way it goes.”

Clements’ team, founded in 2010, operates with a “fraction” of the budget that teams like Joe Gibbs Racing, JR Motorsports and Richard Childress Racing have the luxury of enjoying.

And in the closing laps, with fresher tires on his car, Clements had next to no idea he was outrunning those teams.

“There’s no scoreboard out there, so you can’t see what’s going (on),” Clements said. “I’m just driving as hard as I can the whole race. When we had pitted and we were behind a few cars, I thought ‘well, maybe those guys are the leaders. I don’t know.’ We got to third and (Gill) said ‘you’re in third’ and I thought, ‘OK, we might have a shot at this. Wow. This is for real.'”

It became even more real once he took second place with six laps to go and Tifft was getting closer in his windshield.

“I was licking my chops, man,” Clements said. “I mean first victory. I was just so excited. I couldn’t believe that was right there for me to get.”

Clements admits he was “a little impatient” with his attempt to get around Tifft, but in his defense “it’s kind of the last lap.”

The win also comes 13 years after 10 surgeries helped save Clements’ right hand, which was severely injured in a late-model crash. At the time, his doctor told him he’d never be able to race again.

“We were able to prove him wrong, thankfully,” Clements said. “But I had some good doctors to make that happen, so got to thank them for sure. That was a freak deal. That was so long ago it feels like it didn’t even happen now. I definitely got the hand to prove it. I’m just psyched to be here. I can’t even believe we won the race.”

Results, point standings after Truck race at Las Vegas

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Austin Hill won Friday night’s Truck Series race at Las Vegas Motor Speedway for his second win of 2020.

He beat Sheldon Creed for the victory.

The top five was completed by Tanner Gray, Stewart Friesen and Chandler Smith.

IndyCar driver Conor Daly finished 18th and Travis Pastrana was 21st.

Click here for the race results.

Point Standings

With his win, Austin Hill is the first driver to advance to the second round of the playoffs.

Todd Gilliland is last in the playoff standings with 2,050 points. He is 13 points behind Ben Rhodes.

Click here for the standings.

Austin Hill wins Las Vegas Truck race

Austin Hill
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Austin Hill won Friday night’s Truck Series playoff race at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, leading the final 39 laps to score the victory.

Hill took the lead on a restart and held off charges from Sheldon Creed over the final 20 laps.

Creed’s progress was slowed with 11 laps to go when he got loose and scraped the wall in Turn 1. He was never able to get close enough to Hill to make a challenge.

Creed dominated the early portion of the race, leading 89 laps before he struggled to get going on the final restart and briefly fell to seventh.

The win is the second of the year for Hill. He’s the first playoff driver to win in the postseason and it come after he finished 25th at Bristol.

“We didn’t have the best truck tonight by no means,” Hill told FS1. “Pit crew did a hell of job on that last pit stop getting me into the position I needed to. I just had to go out there and get it. … Sheldon was definitely way faster than me. … I was probably looking in my mirror more than I was our front. I knew he was better than we were.”

The top five was completed by Tanner Gray, Stewart Friesen and Chandler Smith.

More: Race results and point standings

STAGE 1 WINNER: Sheldon Creed

STAGE 2 WINNER: Sheldon Creed

WHO HAD A GOOD RACE: Tanner Gray, Stewart Friesen and Chandler Smith all matched their best results of the season … While he was the first driver to finish one lap down, IndyCar driver Conor Daly placed 18th in his first career Truck Series start … Travis Pastrana placed 21st in his second start of the season.

WHO HAD A BAD RACE: Rachael Lessard finished 20th after he had to pit early in the race following contact with the wall … Ben Rhodes finished 23rd after he spun from contact with Stewart Friesen and hit the inside wall on Lap 84 … Jordan Anderson’s engine expired on the ensuing restart. He finished 32nd.

NOTABLE: Natalie Decker, who was not medically cleared to compete Friday night, was treated and released from the infield care center.

WHAT’S NEXT: Race at Talladega Superspeedway, 1 p.m. ET Oct. 3 on FS1

 

Natalie Decker not medically cleared for Las Vegas Truck race

Natalie Decker
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NASCAR announced right before Friday night’s Truck Series race that Natalie Decker hadn’t been medically cleared to compete.

No details were provided about the issue that prevented Decker from being cleared. During the final stage of the race, NASCAR announced she had been treated and released from the infield medical center.

The Niece Motorsports driver would have started 23rd. Due to her No. 44 truck having cleared inspection and having been placed on the starting grid she was credited with a last-place finish.

Decker has made 11 starts this year. She missed the June 28 race at Pocono after she was hospitalized due to bile duct complications related to her gallbladder removal in December.

Brandon Brown hopes to shed underdog role in Xfinity playoffs

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Brandon Brown knows the odds are against him advancing beyond the first round of the Xfinity playoffs.

“If I went out and we did a survey and we asked 1,000 NASCAR fans to create a playoff bracket, I guarantee that 90 to 99 percent of them have me getting eliminated in the first round,” he told NBC Sports.

But that’s not stopping him.

Brown is in the Xfinity playoffs for the first time, earning the final spot last weekend with his family-run team. He enters Saturday’s race at Las Vegas Motor Speedway (7:30 p.m. ET on NBCSN) last in the 12-driver field. Brown has 2,000 points and is 10 points behind Ross Chastain, who holds the final transfer spot, entering the first round.

MORE: Saturday’s Xfinity race start time, lineup, forecast

Regardless where he is in the standings, Brown still met the team’s preseason goal of making the playoffs.

“It’s hard to put it into words,” the 27-year-old said of making the playoffs. “It’s so exciting and so thrilling. We’re just happy. Life is good. We’re seeing the fruits of our labor.”

Much of the Xfinity playoff focus will be on Chase Briscoe, who enters with a series-high seven wins. Or Austin Cindric, who won the regular-season title. Or Justin Allgaier, who has won three of the last seven races and could be the favorite if he makes it to the championship race at Phoenix Raceway.

Brown, who is in his second full season in the series, has four consecutive top-20 finishes going into this weekend. He knows the challenge he faces.

He said a key for this weekend is to have no mistakes, be running at the end and try to take advantage of any mistakes other playoff drivers have.

Then, he’ll look to Talladega. He’ll have an upgraded Earnhardt Childress Racing engine for that race, the team spending the extra money for the engine upgrade.

“I go into that track with confidence,” he said. “I need to go out there and make it happen, go win and make an name and go ahead and punch my ticket.”

While Brown knows most look at him as the underdog of these playoffs, he hopes to drop that title someday.

“The goal will be to get rid of that underdog title and to build that program that is going to be looked on as a powerhouse of the NASCAR Xfinity Series,” he said. “I enjoy the ride (as underdog), but now I’m ready to advance past it.”

Points entering Xfinity playoffs 

2,050 – Chase Briscoe

2,050 – Austin Cindric

2,033 – Justin Allgaier

2,025 – Noah Gragson

2,020 – Brandon Jones

2,018 – Justin Haley

2,014 – Harrison Burton

2,010 – Ross Chastain

2,002 – Ryan Sieg

2,002 – Michael Annett

2,001 – Riley Herbst

2,000 – Brandon Brown

First Round races

Sept. 26 – Las Vegas Motor Speedway (7:30 p.m. ET on NBCSN)

Oct. 3 – Talladega Superspeedway (4:30 p.m. ET on NBCSN)

Oct. 10 – Charlotte Motor Speedway Roval (3:30 p.m. ET on NBC)