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Xfinity Series Spotlight: Playoff drivers share who they want to win title for

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After being awarded the Xfinity Series regular-season championship, Elliott Sadler reminded everyone who he wanted to win his first NASCAR championship for.

“I want to hand my trophy to my parents,” Sadler said last weekend at Chicagoland Speedway. “That’s what I want to do. You don’t realize until you get older how much your parents sacrificed when you were a kid to make sure you were in good equipment, whether it was in go-karts or late models or maybe investing money in your career when you first started Xfinity racing or Busch racing back then.”

With the start of the Xfinity playoffs Saturday at Kentucky Speedway (8 p.m. ET on NBCSN), NBC Sports asked the other 11 playoff drivers who they wanted to win a championship for.

Here are the best responses.

Brennan Poole (Photo by Jerry Markland/Getty Images)

Brennan Poole – Chip Ganassi Racing’s No. 42 Chevrolet

“You do it for yourself because it’s what you love to do. I fight for it because I want that. But my parents sacrificed a lot to get me to this point. My dad spent a lot of time with me on the road and mom missed a lot those moments with me because I was traveling so much racing. I lived here (in Charlotte) on my own when I was 17, I lived on a guy’s sofa for a year until I turned 18 and got an apartment. But my parents were still in Texas. They didn’t move here until just last year. There’s five or six years of us apart while I was trying to go after this.

“I’ve been very blessed and very fortunate to have an amazing family like I had. I think it would be awesome to stand there and win that championship just for all those moments that they went through to get me there. But also, my parents weren’t a racing family. My dad wanted me to play golf. I’ve been very fortunate I’ve always had the right people come along in my life at the right time through quarter midgets and legends cars and dirt modifieds and late models and ARCA and now Xfinity. To help me get to that next level. To teach me the things I needed to get to the next step. It will be a huge payment to everybody that believed in me to get me to this point.”

Ryan Reed – Roush Fenway Racing’s No. 16 Ford

“I think your family is always really important to every race car driver. They’ve had a lot of help to get here. No one did it on their own. A lot of times it’s their family. But for me, after being diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes, obviously my partner Lilly Diabetes, who stuck with me essentially from the beginning. But then also for every person living with Diabetes. I would venture to guess 90 percent of them have been told they can’t do something because of diabetes. Winning a championship would absolutely be dedicated to all of them.”

Justin Allgaier (Photo by Matt Sullivan/Getty Images)

Justin Allgaier – JR Motorsports’ No. 7 Chevrolet

“I think my dad. When I won the ARCA championship, my dad was somebody that was hugely instrumental in that. That would be huge to be able to surmount that. We’ve had a lot of loss at JR Motorsports this year. Adam Wright for us was somebody that was a huge part in making sure this four-car team succeeded. Obviously, that’s something we’re thinking about. We’d love to win a championship for him. … I think anytime you have that it makes these emotions of when things go well that much better.”

William Byron – JR Motorsports’ No. 5 Chevrolet

“I think about people that helped me in my in legend cars, my crew chief there, Dennis (Lambert), Rudy (Fugle) last year ( in the Camping World Truck Series) helped me. I saw how those guys hated to see how it unfolded last year. All those people that helped me get to this point. My parents obviously. Liberty (University), everyone. Hopefully everyone can be excited about it and when can go out and win it and be able to show those people all the support they’ve given me, be able to give back to them.”

Matt Tifft – Joe Gibbs Racing’s No. 19 Toyota

“Definitely my mom and dad for sticking with me through this whole progression of my career. They’ve stood behind me. My dad’s been to every race since I started racing when I was 12. Obviously they’ve helped me a lot and encouraged me to go after my dreams and do what I love to do with this. At the same I think it’s well known my story and I’d love to be able and go do that to be a champion for all those who have gone through things similar to me with the brain surgery world and the brain tumor world I should say. I’d like to be able and go out and prove myself for that reason.”

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Daniel Hemric – Richard Childress Racing’s No. 21 Chevrolet

“The first thing my mind goes to is for the hard-nosed short-track racer that will not ever get an opportunity like this. I’m one of the few that’s been fortunate to be given this seat to sit in and be able to have the opportunity to run for a championship. I think if I could hoist that trophy at Homestead it would be kind of one of those, ‘Hey, it can still be done the old fashioned way’ kind of things.”

Brendan Gaughan – Richard Childress Racing’s No. 62 Chevrolet

“Me … me … me. I’ve had a lot of people get me through this. This would be for everybody, but listen, anybody that says, ‘Oh, it’s going to be…’, no. You want to win championships for your sponsor, for yourself or your owner, yes, all that’s great. I’ve been doing this 20 years. I would love to get another championship, especially at this point in my career. That’s what we do it for and I would love to be able to catch it now.

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.