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As weather heats up, Justin Allgaier feels ‘like myself’ on track

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Two weeks ago defending Xfinity Series champion Tyler Reddick sounded a warning.

“Definitely, as we get into the summer stretch you can’t forget about Justin Allgaier,” Reddick told NBC Sports. “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.”

Reddick almost ate his words last weekend on a hot and humid day at Charlotte Motor Speedway when he had to fend off a charge from Allgaier over the final 14 laps.

Allgaier emerged from a field that had been picked apart as many drivers – Christopher Bell, Chase Briscoe, John Hunter Nemechek, Cole Custer and Brandon Jones – fell out of contention or the race due to contact with the wall and the resulting cut tires.

Allgaier couldn’t catch Reddick, but he earned his fifth top five of the season, all of which have been in the top three. He enters this weekend’s race at Pocono with consecutive runner-up finishes.

This current stretch was preceded by one where the JR Motorsports driver failed to finish better than ninth over five races, including at Bristol where he led 138 laps and fell out with a right front hub failure.

“You know what’s disappointing is we had way more speed at the beginning of the year and we didn’t have the finishes to show for it,” Allgaier said after Saturday’s race. “Now I don’t feel like we’re quite as fast, but we’ve got the finishes to show for it.

“This team has got a great effort, a lot of instinctual effort. I think that’s what’s saving us right now. We got a really solid crew. These summer months when it’s hot and slick like this, that’s when I feel like myself, personally, but also JR Motorsports excels. So I’m looking forward to the summer.”

Allgaier and the rest of the Xfinity Series won’t have to experience the heat they did in Charlotte this weekend at Pocono. The high Saturday is forecast at 75 degrees by wunderground.com.

Allgaier will try to improve his record at Pocono. In three Xfinity starts, he has two DNFs for wrecks and a second-place finish in 2017 after he led 13 laps.

He does have an ARCA win at the “Tricky Triangle” in 2008.

“I love racing at Pocono,” Allgaier said in a media release. “(Crew chief) Jason Burdett and our No. 7 Klondike team have done a really good job there in the past. I really like racing at tracks that are unique and aren’t necessarily your standard shape. You really have to think through all three corners. To be good in Turn 1, you’re going to struggle a little in Turn 2 and Turn 3 and vice versa. Figuring which corner you’re willing to give up a little bit of speed in order to gain the speed on the other corners is so important. I’m excited for this race. I think it’s going to be a lot of fun.”

Should Allgaier break through on the Pennsylvania track, it would be just his second win in 55 Xfinity starts on tracks 2 miles or larger. The first came last year at Indianapolis Motor Speedway (which inspired the design of Turn 2 at Pocono).

An Allgaier win would also be just the second for JRM in 2019.

It hasn’t found victory lane since Michael Annett won the season-opener in Daytona.

Cole Custer, Tyler Reddick have physical confrontation after Kansas race

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KANSAS CITY, Kan. – Xfinity Series championship contenders Cole Custer and Tyler Reddick got involved in a heated confrontation that quickly turned physical after Saturday’s race at Kansas Speedway.

Custer, who was angry about Reddick making contact with him, approached his rival after they parked in the pits. Custer put a hand on the shoulder of Reddick, who responded by grabbed Custer with both hands.

The drivers both fell to the ground as they swarmed by members of both teams. Neither driver seemed to be hurt.

“I was just frustrated that he can’t keep his car on the bottom and then runs us up into the wall,” Custer told NBC Sports. “If he wants to wreck cars and put them in the wall, that’s fine, but when it affects me, I’m not going to be very happy with him.

“I don’t know. I just want over to talk to him and say that and put my hand on him, and he just went beserk. I thought we had a good car and a shot to win.”

As he approached Reddick, Custer addressed him with “You can be a dumb (expletive).”

“I understand Cole’s frustration 100% We’re trying to lock ourselves into Homestead, and he came up to talk after the race. He put a hand on me, I put a hand on him back, and that’s just how it’s going to be if we’re going to have a conversation that way.

“I’m out of breath. Had a fight there with some people and it was a little bit of fun. I think a lot of Cole and his driving ability.”

Reddick finished runner-up to Brandon Jones, who won but already had been eliminated from the playoffs and wasn’t eligible to advance to the championship round. Custer finished 10th.

With two races remaining in the Xfinity regular season, Reddick and Custer both are comfortably in position to reach the title race at Homestead-Miami Speedway.

“It was just heat of the moment,” Reddick told NBC Sports.  We’re pissed off. I’m sure we’ll talk about it here soon, maybe today, tomorrow.

“I hate that it happened to him, but we’ll try and move forward. Both of us have a lot left to lose in this deal, and if we take each other out, neither one of us get to Homestead, and I feel we both deserve to be there.”

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

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After starting from the front row next to pole sitter Christopher Bell, Brandon Jones fell backwards only to roar 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 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 resulted from a crash that involved Joey Gase and Noah Gragson.

“This is incredible,” Jones told NBCSN. “I knew this would happen, we were going to come here and have an amazing run at the end of the day. … I’m not going to lie, my foot was literally shaking on the accelerator on the last lap, I’m not even sure I was wide open when I was doing it.

“There was a lot of nerve flow and emotion going through my mind but I saw it coming and I got pretty pumped.”

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

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 line 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)

WHO ELSE HAD A GOOD RACE: Briscoe overcame the late contact with Smithley and Bell to finish third. Also having a strong outing was Michael Annett, who potentially might have had a chance at a win if the race had gone a few more laps.

WHO HAD A BAD RACE: Making just his sixth start of the season, Ryan Truex had his car blow up on him after just four laps. “It sucks, that was my last race in this car (this season) and probably the best car we’ve had since Phoenix at the start of the year,” Truex told NBC. “We had a top five car for sure. That really sucks that we don’t even have a chance to show what we’ve got. … To not even have a chance is really hard to swallow.” … Harrison Burton, who on Thursday was announced that he would race full-time for Joe Gibbs Racing in 2020, made contact with Austin Cindric on Lap 70. “To me, it just felt like I flat out got wrecked,” Burton said of Cindric to NBC Sports. “It’s unfortunate and frustrating. … I guess he didn’t want to race, he just wanted to wreck.” Burton finished 34th, while Cindric was 25th.

NOTABLE: Cole Custer and Tyler Reddick were involved in a pushing and shoving match for about 20 seconds after the race, but were separated.

WHAT’S NEXT: The Xfinity Series has next weekend off. It returns to action for the O’Reilly Auto Parts 300 at Texas Motor Speedway on Nov. 2 (8:30 p.m. ET start, on NBCSN).

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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.