Xfinity playoffs: Past Championship 4 drivers look to go over the top


Last year’s Championship 4 at Phoenix Raceway was the closest Justin Allgaier has been to winning a NASCAR Xfinity Series title.

In his fourth career Xfinity Series Championship 4 appearance, Allgaier was in contention as the race entered overtime. Having put on his last set of tires earlier, he stayed out to inherit the lead while Austin Cindric pitted for fresh tires.

On older rubber, Allgaier tried but failed to hold back Cindric off the restart. After they made contact coming to the white flag, Cindric slipped by him, and then Noah Gragson, to claim the title with a win. Allgaier faded to a fifth-place finish.

Looking back, it’s hard to see what more Allgaier could’ve done in that situation.

So, as this year’s Xfinity Series playoffs get set to begin Saturday at Las Vegas Motor Speedway (7:30 p.m. ET, NBCSN), trying to glean areas of potential improvement from last year’s playoff run doesn’t seem to be his main priority.

“I think every playoffs has been different,” Allgaier said Tuesday during Xfinity Series playoff media day. “The way drivers race, the risk that certain drivers are willing to take – until you get into those moments, you don’t necessarily always know what’s going to happen.

“Every playoffs has had its own vibe and its own feel, and I think this year is not going to be any different. It’s going to be a lot about managing your expectations, managing your competition and just getting yourself in position to go for that opportunity at Phoenix.

“Not beating yourself – that’s probably the most important piece of the playoffs for 2021 … If we can keep from beating ourselves, we’ll be in great shape.”

Allgaier is one of three drivers in this year’s playoffs who’ve reached the Xfinity Series Championship 4 but have been unable to win the title.

Joe Gibbs Racing’s Daniel Hemric rode consistency to Championship 4 berths in 2017 and 2018 while driving for Richard Childress Racing. Since then, Hemric’s career has taken some turns.

He rose to the Cup Series with RCR in 2019, but was out after a single season. He then went back to the Xfinity Series in 2020, where he ran the majority of races (21 of 33) for JR Motorsports.

Last November, he landed a full-time Xfinity Series ride for 2021 with Joe Gibbs Racing.

Shortly after the announcement, Hemric was enthused about having “legitimate, raw, in-your-face speed” in his equipment. But that speed has not helped him get to Victory Lane for the first time in his NASCAR national series career (201 starts).

Still, Hemric believes his lessons from 2017 and 2018 will help him.

“For me, I look at the strengths of this race team and the strengths of myself mentally and physically, of where I’m at as a person and race car driver now than where I was then,” Hemric said Tuesday.

“I think (I) just keep myself centered and humbled about the opportunity I have in front of me and just attack each week for what it is. Your biggest competitor in these scenarios is yourself, right? So, you gotta go and compete.

“Every spot does matter. Every scenario, every situation and decision you make are going to be different but they are going to matter. I think going through that experience in ’17 and ’18, hopefully, will help me be better now than I was then. I feel confident that I am.”

Then there’s Kaulig Racing’s Justin Haley, who made his first Championship 4 appearance last year alongside Allgaier, Cindric and Chase Briscoe. Haley finished eighth at Phoenix, which put him third in the final standings.

In last year’s playoffs, Haley won at Talladega to reach the second round. In that round, he posted an average finish of 7.7 (fourth at Kansas, seventh at Texas, 12th at Martinsville) to reach the Championship 4.

Haley believes a repeat Championship 4 appearance will be “a difficult task.” But if he and the No. 11 Kaulig team can do it, Haley thinks last year’s experience will pay dividends.

“I think now that we’ve had that championship race under our belts, we can do what we learned last year and be better at it,” Haley said Tuesday. “We’ve already had the team go through a little different technical process (in the championship race), a little more technical than normal of that side of things, and I go through a little more media.

“It’s a lot of pressure and a lot more things going on. I’ve made the (Championship) 4 in Trucks, made (Championship) 4 in Xfinity, so (I’m) kinda taking all that and figuring out what we can do to be better and try to win a championship for (owner) Matt Kaulig.”

NASCAR displays counterfeit part from Chase Briscoe car


NASCAR displayed the counterfeit part from Chase Briscoe‘s car on Saturday at Sonoma Raceway, showing how the part did not correspond to what should have been in the car.

NASCAR found the issue at its R&D Center after last month’s Coca-Cola 600. The sanctioning body fined crew chief John Klausmeier $250,000 and suspended him for six races. NASCAR also docked Briscoe and the team 120 points and 25 playoff points for the L3 infraction.

“We want to be transparent on the penalties,” said Brad Moran, managing director of the Cup Series as he displayed the counterfeit part to media.

Moran displayed a a portion of the engine panel from Briscoe’s car. He noted the engine duct was counterfeit. He said the proper pieces are 3D printed at the R&D Center and Fiberworks Composites sells them and installs them for teams. Moran said the duct is “in the bottom of the car under the engine panel. It’s to help cool the driver. It was added prior to the first race. During testing … we realized we wanted to get heat out of the engine compartment, and that’s what this piece does.”

Moran noted that with the counterfeit part, “we can clearly see the textures are different (from the proper part).”

He displayed what officials call a gauge that determines if the duct fits the proper parameters. He showed it fitting a proper duct and not properly fitting in the counterfeit part.

“It was a part that was made, and it was made for whatever reason,” Moran said. “It was, I guess, put on by error, but it was on the vehicle. It is a piece that should not have been made in the first place, and it was spotted at our teardown at the R&D Center.”

Moran said the issue was found in a visual inspection of the part. NASCAR inspected it further and Moran said “there are certain little characteristics that are in (a proper piece)” that officials did not see in the one on Briscoe’s car. “The more we examined it, the more we realized that’s not a part they bought.”

Moran noted that while the penalties were severe, they could have been worse based on the rulebook.

“It was the low end of the L3,” Moran said. “It’s a real big hit for any team. If it continues, and we feel we are not where we need to be, unfortunately, it’s going to ramp up. We’re not going to stop.

“The deal with this car is it needs to be run without modifying. It costs teams a lot of money in development. All the owners agreed. We all agreed where we need to be to make this a successful program, and we’re not going to give up.”



Sunday Cup race at Sonoma Raceway: Start time, TV info, weather


The Cup Series heads to wine country to compete on the 1.99-mile road course at Sonoma Raceway. This race leads into the final off weekend of the season. After the break, the series races 20 consecutive weekends. NBC and USA will broadcast those races.

Details for Sunday’s Cup race at Sonoma Raceway

(All times Eastern)

START: Adam Devine will give the command to start engines at 3:38 p.m. … The green flag is scheduled to wave at 3:50 p.m.

PRERACE: Cup garage opens at 12:30 p.m. … Drivers meeting is at 2:45 p.m. … Driver intros are at 3 p.m. … Earl Smith, pastor for the Golden State Warriors and San Francisco 49ers, will give the invocation at 3:30 p.m. … Tiffany Woys will perform the national anthem at 3:31 p.m.

DISTANCE: The race is 110 laps (218.9 miles) on the 1.99-mile road course.

STAGES: Stage 1 ends at Lap 25. Stage 2 ends at Lap 55.

STARTING LINEUP: Qualifying begins at 6 p.m. Saturday

TV/RADIO: Fox will broadcast the race at 3:30 p.m. … Coverage begins at 2 p.m. on FS1 and switches to Fox at 3 p.m. … Performance Racing Network coverage begins at 2:30 p.m. and also will stream at SiriusXM NASCAR Radio will carry the PRN broadcast.


FORECAST: Weather Underground — Partly cloudy with a high of 69 degrees and a 1% chance of rain at the start of the race.

LAST YEAR: Daniel Suarez won his first career Cup race last year at Sonoma. Chris Buescher finished second. Michael McDowell placed third.


Friday 5: Kyle Busch, Randall Burnett forming potent combination

Rick Hendrick hopes rough driving settles down after Chase Elliott suspension

Concussion-like symptoms sideline Noah Gragson

NASCAR implements safety changes after Talladega crash

Dr. Diandra: Brad Keselowski driving RFK Racing revival 

NASCAR penalizes Erik Jones, Legacy MC for L1 violation

Drivers to watch at Sonoma Raceway 

NASCAR Power Rankings: William Byron, Kyle Busch rank 1-2

NASCAR Saturday schedule at Sonoma Raceway


Cup and Xfinity teams will be on track Saturday at Sonoma Raceway.

Cup teams will practice and qualify for Sunday’s race. Xfinity teams will qualify and race Saturday on the 1.99-mile road course in Northern California.

Sonoma Raceway


Saturday: Mostly cloudy with a high of 75 degrees. Forecast is for mostly cloudy skies, a high of 71 degrees and no chance of rain at the start of the Xfinity race.

Saturday, June 10

(All times Eastern)

Garage open

  • 12 p.m. – 8 p.m.  — Cup Series
  • 1 p.m. — Xfinity Series

Track activity

  • 3 – 4 p.m. — Xfinity qualifying (FS1)
  • 5 – 6 p.m. — Cup practice  (FS2)
  • 6 – 7 p.m. — Cup qualifying  (FS2)
  • 8 p.m. — Xfinity race (79 laps, 156.95 miles; FS1, Performance Racing Network, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio)

Alpha Prime Racing’s road woes don’t keep team from competing


SONOMA, Calif. — Alpha Prime Racing owner Tommy Joe Martins laughs. He can. His Xfinity Series cars all are here at Sonoma Raceway.

At one point last week, it was not certain if his team’s cars would make it to Portland International Raceway.

“It was probably the toughest professional week I’ve had of my NASCAR career,” Martins told NBC Sports on Friday at Sonoma.

MORE: Kyle Larson leads Xfinity practice at Sonoma

The Alpha Prime Racing team had both its trucks break down and one of its haulers have mechanical issues last week on the way to the Pacific Northwest.

“We basically sent four pieces of equipment on the road and three of them broke,” Martins said.

For a time, the car Sage Karam is driving this weekend at Sonoma was left in a hauler in Kansas City because there wasn’t room in the dually Martins sent. It had room only for the car that was needed at Portland and other equipment. Karam’s car, which was to be a backup at Portland, was left behind.

“It’s a very helpless feeling when you feel like your stuff is stuck on the side of the road,” Martins said.

He still has one truck still in St. Louis and another in Oregon. Martins estimates the mechanical issues will cost his team about $50,000 when everything is totaled.

Trouble started well before the team left its Mooresville, North Carolina, race shop for Portland.

The Xfinity Series race at Charlotte was scheduled to run May 27. Rain forced that event to be rescheduled to May 29. Martins said the team had planned to send its trucks to Portland on May 28. With the race pushed back to the 29th, the travel schedule tightened.

It got worse.

After the Xfinity race started, rain came. With the Coca-Cola 600 scheduled for 3 p.m. ET that day – after being delayed by rain from Sunday – the rest of the Xfinity race was pushed back until after the 600. That further tightened the window on Xfinity teams to make it to Portland.

The Xfinity race ended around 11:30 p.m. ET on May 29. Alpha Prime Racing’s haulers left the shop around 6 a.m. ET on May 30.

The two trucks traveled together until issues in St. Louis.

The truck hauling the Nos. 44 and 45 cars had engine issues in St. Louis. The other truck kept going until it had mechanical issues with its hauler in Kansas City. The air bags on the hauler failed.

So, Alpha Prime Racing had a truck that worked in Kansas City with a hauler that didn’t and a truck that didn’t work in St. Louis with a hauler that did.

The truck in Kansas City went back to St. Louis to attach to the hauler and take those cars and equipment to Portland. Martins then had to find something to haul the stranded equipment in Kansas City and a driver. He eventually did. A dually left North Carolina for Kansas City. Once there, what fit in the dually was taken to Portland and what didn’t, including Karam’s Sonoma car stayed behind.

Yet, more trouble was headed for Martins and his team.

The truck that had gone back from Kansas City to St. Louis to take hauler that worked then broke down about 200 miles from Portland.

“I laugh knowing that we’re on the other side of it,” Martins said Friday of all the issues his team had transporting cars and equipment across the country.

“We’ve started to make plans and corrections for it not happening again,” he said.

That hauler that was left in Kansas City? It was repaired and transported to Sonoma, arriving earlier this week.

“Our guys are troopers,” Martins said. “Both of our (truck) drivers were just awesome about the whole thing. … They went through hell week as far as driving somewhere, fly back and pick something up, drive again and now are going to have to do the same thing getting back.”

When the garage opened Friday at Sonoma, Alpha Prime Racing had all its cars.

“I don’t think we had any major issues here, so that was good,” Martins said.

The focus is back on the track. Karam was 24th on the speed chart in Friday’s practice, leading Alpha Prime Racing’s effort. Dylan Lupton was 32nd. Jeffrey Earnhardt was last among 41 cars.

After Saturday night’s race, the team heads back to North Carolina for a well-earned weekend off.