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Tyler Reddick ‘happy’ with early Xfinity success, Kansas Cup performance

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Things are going well for Tyler Reddick in 2019.

While he hasn’t been flashy about it, the Richard Childress Racing driver leads the Xfinity Series standings almost a third of the way through in his attempt to defend his series championship.

The first 10 races have been a stark contrast to his 2018 campaign, which ended in the championship. Reddick has a series-leading eight top fives, two more than Christopher Bell. Last year, when Reddick had just seven top fives all season, he didn’t earn his second until race No. 10 at Dover.

The only similarity to last year is his lone win has come at a superspeedway (Talladega).

“I wouldn’t say I expected it to be quite as smooth sailing as it has been,” Reddick told NBC Sports while in Philadelphia for a Xfinity Series promotion. “But I knew we had the capability of being as fast as we have been. For us to have the two bad races I would say, possibly three if you count Richmond, and still be running like we are and be where we are in points and all those things. It’s been pretty crazy honestly.

“I wish we had a win or two more along the way. To have a win, to be locked in and leading the points overall and have an average finish of (4.7) right now is pretty good so far for the first bit of the year. I’m happy.”

Reddick didn’t stay still during the first of two straight off weeks for the Xfinity Series.

He made his second career Cup Series start last weekend at Kansas Speedway, again driving RCR’s No. 31 Chevrolet.

After qualifying 30th in a car set up for the race, Reddick started 21st because many of the 11 cars that failed inspection and lost their starting spot were in front of him.

“The leaders could get away from us pretty early and we wouldn’t be able to match their lap times until about 25 laps into a run,” Reddick said. “So it kind of put us in a bad spot there. Throughout the race at times we could stay in the top 15, kind of linger right there.”

The team got a boost when a caution came out in the middle of green flag stops on Lap 219, leaving Reddick and six other drivers on the lead lap.

That allowed Reddick to restart in the top 10, where he’d stay the remainder of the race, running as high as the top five before settling for ninth.

“I think we still could have had a shot at running top 10 without that (caution),” Reddick said. “To ultimately get in the spot where we were and almost get to third place, fourth place after one of those restarts. It was a really good feeling. I was ashamed the next restart I threw it all away, just had a mistake and lost it. To still finish ninth after the issues we had on the restart and to bounce back from that, that was really cool.”

Reddick will return to Kansas in the Xfinity Series in October during the playoffs. But due to the Cup Series rules package, Reddick says nothing he experienced Saturday will translate back to his full-time ride.

“They couldn’t be any more different right now than they are at this moment,” Reddick said. “Everything that you know and teach yourself in Xfinity you pretty much have to throw it all away and disregard it when you step into a Cup car.

Reddick added, “It’s quite unreal to be honest with you how much different they are.”

The next three Xfinity races see the series visiting Charlotte Motor Speedway, Pocono Raceway and Michigan International Speedway.

After his stellar start, Reddick isn’t too enthusiastic about the next stretch.

“Those are all really bad tracks for me,” Reddick said. “I’ve never ran Pocono with what the Xfinity cars are now. We ran the drag duct race there (in 2018 and finished ninth). My first time there at Michigan was with Chip Ganassi Racing (in 2017 and finished 13th). We had good speed but I just wasn’t quite comfortable in race cars yet, especially at a 2-mile race track. …

“Charlotte’s a place I’ve had a lot of rough luck at (finishes of 10th and 23rd). I don’t even think of Charlotte as a mile-and-a-half, but it is. Hopefully, I was hearing it was going to be 94 degrees. I’m hoping it’s really, really hot and really, really slick. It might work out OK for us. So I’d say Charlotte is the one I’m looking to the most.”

Through 10 races Reddick’s main competition in defending his title would appear to be Bell and Cole Custer, who have three wins and two wins respectively.

But Reddick is keeping his head up when it comes to one other driver.

“Definitely as we get into the summer stretch you can’t forget about Justin Allgaier,” Reddick cautioned. “He’ll run really good at the short tracks. He’ll be really good at the road courses. You can’t ever forget about him.”

Allgaier has four top fives this season and is coming off a runner-up finish at Dover and a third-place finish two races before that at Richmond.

“Trying to forget about him is exactly when we’re going to get in trouble and that’s when he’s going to pop his head back into the race and make himself known. He’s had some really bad luck but you definitely can’t rule him out.”

Brandon Jones rallies late to earn first career Xfinity race at Kansas

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After starting from the No. 2 position, Brandon Jones roared back late to win his first career Xfinity Series race Saturday at Kansas Speedway.

With the win, the 22-year-old Jones, who was knocked out of the playoffs after the Dover elimination race, still had an impact on how the Round of 8 began.

Jones was in the right place at the right time, taking advantage of late-race misfortune to Chase Briscoe and pole sitter Christopher Bell, who were involved in a wreck with Garrett Smithley with 16 laps to go in the 200-lap event.

Equally as important was the great restart Jones got with four laps to go following another late caution that involved Joey Gase and Noah Gragson.

Tyler Reddick finished second, followed by Briscoe, Michael Annett and Justin Allgaier.

It was not the opening race of the Round of 8 that Briscoe nor Bell were looking for. While Bell led 70 laps and Briscoe 33, their significant efforts were quickly derailed with 16 laps to go.

Briscoe was in the lead, with Bell right behind, when Briscoe tried to pass Garrett Smithley, who was five laps down at the time. But instead of yielding the high lines on the track to Briscoe and Bell, Smithley washed up the track and Briscoe could not avoid contact, nor could Bell avoid contract with Briscoe.

Briscoe finished third, while Bell finished 12th.

STAGE 1 WINNER: Christopher Bell (18th stage win of season)

STAGE 2 WINNER: Cole Custer (eighth stage win of season)

We’ll have more information, including results and points, as well as driver quotes and more shortly. Please check back.

Kyle Larson injured ribs in ‘probably the hardest hit I’ve ever had’

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KANSAS CITY, Kan. – Kyle Larson says he plans to drive the full distance Sunday at Kansas Speedway despite injuring his ribs in “probably the hardest hit I’ve ever had.”

Larson’s No. 42 Chevrolet ran into the No. 88 Chevy of Alex Bowman near the end of the second stage of Monday’s race at Talladega Superspeedway (video above).

Though the Chip Ganassi Racing driver hasn’t had an X-ray, Larson doesn’t think he broke his ribs, but they were hurting enough to require an icing after two Friday practices at Kansas. Larson posted a photo to his Instagram Story of his wrapped midsection with the caption, “Big fan of Super Speedways.”

Because everybody says there really is nothing you can do about ribs anyway,” Larson said when asked why he hadn’t gotten an X-ray. “It’s not broken. It definitely hurts to sneeze and cough, and when I’m in the seat, it’s tender. I’ve never broken a bone, but it’s definitely not broken.

Though he already has secured a spot in the third round of the Cup playoffs through his Oct. 6 victory at Dover International Speedway, Larson said he will run the 400 miles Sunday.

“Yeah, I think so,” he said after qualifying fifth Saturday, pausing to smile. “As long as I don’t hit the wall or anything. It should be fine.”

Larson also crashed in the April 28 race at Talladega, going airborne and rolling several times in a wreck that was reviewed by NASCAR.

Starting lineup for Sunday’s Cup playoff elimination race at Kansas

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Daniel Hemric will own prime real estate when the green flag drops for Sunday’s NASCAR Cup playoff race at Kansas Speedway (2:30 p.m. ET on NBC).

Hemric, who it was announced Sept. 17 that he would not return to drive the No. 8 for Richard Childress Racing next season, captured his first career Cup pole Saturday.

Cup veteran driver David Ragan, who announced August 14 that he will be retiring from full-time competition after this season, will start alongside Hemric on the front row.

The rest of the first five rows for Sunday’s race will be Team Penske teammates Ryan Blaney and Brad Keselowski in Row 2, Kyle Larson and Michael McDowell in Row 3, Ryan Newman and Daniel Suarez in Row 4 and Austin Dillon and Bubba Wallace in Row 5.

Kevin Harvick failed pre-qualifying inspection and did not make a qualifying attempt. He will start Sunday’s race last in the 40-car field.

This will be the second elimination race of the 10-race playoffs. The playoff field will be reduced from 12 to eight drivers.

Click here for the starting lineup.

Kevin Harvick to start at the rear after team passes inspection, then fails

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KANSAS CITY, Kan. — Kevin Harvick will start at the rear of Sunday’s Cup race after his team found an issue with its car and went though inspection after having passed it previously.

Harvick enters the race at Kansas Speedway (2:30 p.m. ET on NBC) 36 points ahead of Alex Bowman, who is the first driver outside a transfer spot. Sunday’s race will cut the playoff field from 12 to eight drivers.

Harvick’s No. 4 Ford failed its first attempt in inspection before qualifying Saturday at Kansas Speedway.

The team passed the second time but then found an issue with the car and made an adjustment. By doing so, the team had to go back through inspection. That meant that the second attempt — which the team had passed — then counted as a failure. NASCAR ejected a crew member (the team’s car chief) and docked the team 15 minutes of practice next week at Martinsville.

The team then went through a third time and failed. Teams are not allowed to attempt to qualify after a third failure. Harvick’s team also lost an additional 15 minutes of practice next week at Martinsville.

Here’s how crew chief Rodney Childers explained to NBC Sports what happened:

“We went through tech the first time, the back of the decklid was like 10 (thousandths of an inch) too low, which that is on us. Everybody pushes that as much as they can at a place like this. We raised the decklid and went back through and passed and everything was fine.

“As we were pushing it back to the garage, you could feel something just barely, barely ticking … on the body as you were pushing it. We got back to the garage and looked up under the back and the weight on the driveshaft was just barely at the tunnel, the driveshaft tunnel. So we kind of stood around for 30 minutes trying to decide should we just kind of go for it and hope it doesn’t become a problem or should we just fix it. Looking back on it maybe we should have just went for it, but we voluntarily went back and through tech and fixed it and then failed right rear toe by .03.

“When you’re doing big changes like that … you’ve got to lengthen the track bar out a couple of rounds. When you lengthen the track bar out a couple of lengths, since the day I stated Cup racing, if you did the track bar two rounds, you did the slug an eighth of an inch. That’s what we did. Then we failed right rear toe.

“It’s disappointing. It was a decision we made to try to be safe and not  have a problem in the race or anything like that. The biggest disappointment is just having to start in the back over something we did voluntarily. That’s what is disappointing.

“I think everybody in this garage would vote for each other and have each other’s back so that if you found a problem on your car and you went back through voluntarily that’s on the team and not counted as a failure. I don’t think that’s right.”

Childers said starting at the rear will be a challenge.

“That’s what we didn’t want to do (start at the rear),” he said. “I hate that it turned out that way. Our car has been fast all weekend. We’ve just got to get back up there and get some stage points and do all the right things. I’m sure he can pass 20 of them in the first five laps and hopefully get up there and contend as best we can.”

Harvick didn’t express too much concern about his situation.

It’s like I’ve talked from the very beginning, you deal with the situations as they approach you,” Harvick said. “It doesn’t matter if it this is the first race or an elimination race. You go about the circumstances that you are dealt. This is why I always tell you guys you just never know what the circumstances are going to be and you have to adopt and adjust as they present themselves.”