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First Xfinity elimination race looms at Dover

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The Roval has come and gone and through the smoke emerges the first Xfinity Series playoff elimination race.

The series heads to Dover International Speedway for Saturday’s Bar Harbor 200 (3 p.m. ET on NBCSN) and so far only one driver, Christopher Bell, has secured a spot in the second round after part-time driver Chase Briscoe won at the Roval.

The 200-lap race will whittle the playoff field from 12 to eight drivers.

Justin Allgaier, Ross Chastain and Austin Cindric are three drivers who are in precarious positions going into Dover.

Justin Allgaier (+11 above cutline)

The JR Motorsports driver entered the playoffs as one of the favorites to win the title. Behind a career-best five wins, he was the No. 1 seed and 36 points above the cutline.

Two races can make all the difference.

Allgaier opened the playoffs by wrecking out at Richmond with 26 laps left. At the Roval, Allgaier finished 15th after pitting during the last caution for repairs to his No. 7 Chevrolet. The repairs fixed leftover damage from an incident on Lap 28 when he was spun by Cindric while exiting pit road and then hit by Ryan Sieg.

After 14 straight top 10s to end the regular season, Allgaier has finished 15th or worse in both playoff races. He enters Dover 11 points above the cutline, tied with teammate Elliott Sadler.

Allgaier, who won at Dover in the spring, doesn’t feel secure ahead of the elimination race.

“Even a guy like Christopher Bell, whose won a race and is locked in, you still don’t go into these races feeling safe,” Allgaier said. “You want to go run good, you don’t want to get crashed. Try to gain as many points as you can. That’s what we tried to do today, figure out how to get as many points as we can. Dover’s been good for us. It’s a great race track for us. All in all, anything can happen. We can miss this first round. You never can say never.”

Allgaier has placed in the top five in four of his last five Dover starts. He is the only playoff driver with a win at Dover.

Ross Chastain (+9)

The JD Motorsports driver “wouldn’t change anything” about his Roval experience.

After qualifying 16th, Chastain intentionally fell back to the rear, treating the road course like a restrictor-plate race and opting to avoid the potential chaos.

He didn’t finish in the top 10 in either stage but survived to place 12th.

“To come away with a 12th and still have a shot (at advancing) and not crash, we can run this car again next year. It’s a job well done,” Chastain said. “We minimized the damage today and that’s what we needed to do.”

Chastain has finished 12th or better in six of his last seven races.

After winning at Las Vegas with Chip Ganassi Racing to qualify for the playoffs, Chastain finished second at Richmond before entering the Roval.

He heads to Dover as the last driver above the cutline with a nine-point advantage over Cindric.

While Chastain and Cindric have each earned 68 points through the first two playoff races, Chastain has the advantage of owning 10 playoff points to Cindric’s one.

What is Chastain’s strategy for Dover, a track where his best finish in seven starts is 12th twice?

“We go to win Dover,” Chastain said. “That’s all we can do. We run as good as we can, no laying back there. There’s going to be crashes there too. For Dover, you just have to go and run as fast as you can and out race these guys. That’s one thing the 4 team can do. Our race craft has really come a long way. Just minimize our mistakes and we’ll be OK.”

Austin Cindric (-9)

Even though he finished third, the Team Penske driver had a fairly miserable day on the Roval.

After starting from the pole, Cindric led the first 13 laps. He then spun in Turn 6 while facing pressure from Daniel Hemric in second. Cindric fell to fourth and was never the same.

Then there was the incident with Allgaier in Turn 3 as Allgaier merged into race traffic in front of Cindric.

Cindric took the blame, but doesn’t expect any retaliation from Allgaier.

“Justin and I talked about it on pit road,” Cindric said after the race. “He wasn’t happy, but it didn’t seem like something he wanted to fight about or anything. He said, ‘That was poor racing and we can do better than that’ and I said ‘Yeah, I completely agree.’ I’m sure that doesn’t help him super great in points.”

Cindric enters Dover the first driver outside the top eight. While nine points behind Chastain, he is 15 points ahead of Ryan Truex in 10th.

“I wish I would have had a better run at (Richmond) last weekend (finished 13th), I wish I would have been able to capitalize more today,” Cindric said after the race. “That’s all behind me.  … We had a really good run at Dover last time we were there (finished ninth). I don’t expect us to be anything but where we need to be. I don’t see this as a must win. Obviously you want to run as well as you can, but stage points are so critical in this deal. … There’s some mistakes that need to be minimized.”

Below is the full playoff grid.

Regan Smith to return to JR Motorsports for two Xfinity races

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JR Motorsports announced Wednesday that Regan Smith will drive the team’s No. 8 car in two Xfinity Series races this season.

Smith, who also serves as a Fox Sports analyst, will pilot the car Aug. 10 at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course and Aug. 24 at Road America. Long-time sponsor Fire Alarm Services will join Smith.

This will mark the 35-year-old Smith’s first Xfinity start in two years and his first for JR Motorsports since 2016. Smith won in his JR Motorsports debut in 2012 in Miami and drove full-time for the team from 2013-15. He won five times during that stint, including at Mid-Ohio.

“Regan is a great friend, and he means so much to our company,” said Dale Earnhardt Jr. in a statement from the team. “He won a lot of races here, but for me his significance was no more evident than in his very first race for JRM at the end of 2012. That win at Homestead was enormous. It ended a winless streak for JR Motorsports that had dragged us down for more than two years. It was a tone-setter. It gave us momentum that, to be honest, I’m not sure we’ve ever lost. That’s what Regan means to this company, and that’s why I’m thrilled to have him back for these two races at Mid-Ohio and Road America.”

Said Smith: “I can’t tell you how pumped I am for this. Dale, Kelley (Earnhardt Miller) and everyone at JRM have been like family to me, so in a way, it feels like I’m coming home. I have great memories of the years I spent there and the success we had during that time. And to have Fire Alarm on board for these races makes it all the more meaningful. They’ve been both friends and supporters of mine for a long time.”

Comcast NBCUniversal to salute military at next two Xfinity races

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Comcast NBCUniversal will use the next two Xfinity Series races – June 29 at Chicagoland and July 5 at Daytona – to honor the military during the NASCAR Salutes Refreshed by Coca-Cola campaign.

It will sponsor Jeffrey Earnhardt in Xtreme Concepts Racing’s No. 81 “Salute to Service” Toyota for the race at Chicagoland Speedway, which is the first NASCAR race broadcast by NBCSN this year.

“I’m really excited to be partnering with Comcast and the military on the Comcast Salute to Service Toyota for Chicagoland Speedway,” Earnhardt said in a press release. “Our race team at Xtreme Concepts Racing feels as though we can’t ever do enough for the men and women that protect us and it’s awesome to be partnered with a company like Comcast that feels the same. We will give the fans at Chicagoland Speedway and watching on NBCSN something awesome to cheer for. Hopefully, they watch us park it in victory lane.”

Also, for the fourth consecutive season, all Xfinity Series drivers will bear the names of active military units and installations on their race car windshields in place of the traditional Xfinity branding during the NASCAR Xfinity Series event at Daytona International Speedway. NASCAR and teams collaborated with Comcast to select these military units and installations to showcase the industry’s strong ties back to the military community.

Comcast NBCUniversal has a long-standing reputation as a military-friendly and military-ready company. That includes its commitment to hiring military community members – veterans, National Guard and Reserve members and military spouses. Comcast hired more than 10,000 military community members from 2015 to 2017 and are committed to hire 11,000 more by the end of 2021. Also, as a “thank you” for their service, veterans and actively-serving military customers can get a $100 prepaid card and $25 Xfinity coupon by visiting https://www.xfinity.com/military.

“At Comcast NBCUniversal, our sustained commitment to our nation’s military community has never been stronger,” said Brigadier General (Ret.) Carol Eggert, senior vice president of military and veteran affairs at Comcast NBCUniversal in a press release. “We truly value the tremendous contributions of those who serve our country and wanted to recognize them and their families in a special way as we celebrate our country’s independence.”

NASCAR America presents MotorMouths at 5 p.m. ET

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This week’s episode of NASCAR America presents MotorMouths airs from 5-6 p.m. ET on NBCSN.

Rutledge Wood is joined by Kyle Petty and Nate Ryan.

They’ll take fan phone calls and discuss the big storylines of the week.

If you can’t catch either of today’s shows on TV, watch online at http:/nascarstream.nbcsports.com. If you plan to stream the show on your laptop or portable device, be sure to have your username and password from your cable/satellite/telco provider handy so your subscription can be verified.

Once you enter that information, you’ll have access to the stream.

Click here at 5 p.m. ET to watch live via the stream.

After ARCA win and strong Truck debut, Chandler Smith ready for more at Gateway

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Chandler Smith can drive well over 100 mph on a race track. But after an ARCA or NASCAR Gander Outdoors Truck Series race, he can’t drive out of the race track and proceed on a city street or rural road or freeway.

That kind of thing happens when you’re 16 years old – he turns 17 on June 26 – and have yet to get your driver’s license from your home state (in Smith’s case, Georgia).

But even without a license, the soon-to-be high school junior from tiny Talking Rock, Georgia, – population 69 – is proving he sure knows how to wheel a race car or race truck.

Last weekend is more than enough proof to any driver’s examiner of Smith’s ability behind the wheel. On Saturday night, he earned his fourth career ARCA win – in just 14 total starts in the series – in Madison, Wisconsin, for Venturini Motorsports.

Just over 12 hours later, Smith made his Gander Outdoors Truck Series debut by starting on the pole (due to being fastest in first practice when second practice and qualifying were both rained out) in the M&Ms 200 race for Kyle Busch Motorsports, led 55 laps and ultimately finished eighth (he may have finished higher if not for a pit road penalty that sent him to the tail end of the field).

So what does Smith do for an encore? Double duty again in both ARCA and Trucks events this weekend at World Wide Technology Raceway at Gateway (formerly Gateway Motorsports Park), that’s what.

Smith is looking forward to both races, particularly the next step in his evolution with KBM, for whom he’s driving a limited schedule in both Trucks and super late models.

It’s very humbling to have all of these opportunities on the table and I can pick and choose what pathway I am going to take,” Smith said in a media release. “I am grateful for all of the people around me.

I have finally gotten to the age and the maturity when I realize this is a big deal. There is no one I know that is my age that has the opportunities I have. I have some bigger opportunities than some Cup drivers right now. I am really trying to stay humble about it.”

Busch has high expectations for the young drivers that pilot his trucks, and Smith is not excluded from that category even with just one start to date.

I don’t think it adds pressure at all,” Smith said. “When you have drivers that aren’t winning in the very best stuff, he has a valid point. If I don’t do good, I would go up and ask him what I did wrong. I will deserve it. I want to make sure I am aware of what I am doing wrong so I can fix it.”

Saturday will be one of the longest race days – an estimated 14 hours, all told (barring any weather issues) the teenager has experienced to date. He has two ARCA practices, qualifying and the 120 laps/150 miles Day to Day Coffee 150 race at 7:30 p.m. ET. He also has two Truck practices, qualifying and a 160 laps/200 miles CarShield 200 race at 10 p.m. ET.

I think it’s going to be all mental,” said Smith, who has never been in the St. Louis area and may not know about it’s notorious heat and humidity at times. “You are going to have to want to have the drive to do it. If you are like ‘oh my gosh, I have to do that?’ because if you have that attitude you are going to suck at it.

I’ve never been to the track before. I know you need to be patient and hit your marks there. There is definitely going to be a big learning curve. I have never raced on a track like that before. I have practiced there a little on the simulator. I have a good bit of laps under me and I have a general idea so when we get there so I will know what to do.”

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