Life on the cutline as Xfinity playoffs head to Kansas


Entering Saturday’s NASCAR Xfinity Series Round of 8 playoff race at Kansas Speedway (3 p.m. ET, NBC), there are three distinct groups among the remaining contenders.

At the top are the season’s dominant drivers, AJ Allmendinger and Austin Cindric. Allmendinger (30 above the cutline to advance) and Cindric (+26) are still on course to make the Championship 4.

At the bottom are Harrison Burton (21 below the cutline) and Brandon Jones (-32) in seventh and eighth. Both had top-10 finishes last week at Texas Motor Speedway, but a lack of stage points left them with bigger deficits than they had going in.

And in the middle? Four drivers covered by a mere eight points.

JR Motorsports teammates Justin Allgaier (+4) and Noah Gragson (+2) hold the final two transfer spots to the Nov. 6 title race at Phoenix Raceway. Just behind them below the cutline are Daniel Hemric (-2) and Justin Haley (-6).

This situation is due to all four drivers being among the top five points-scorers at Texas. Gragson finished third and led the group with 45 points. Hemric finished second and earned 44 points. Allgaier finished fourth and earned 43 points. Haley finished seventh and earned 41 points.

Now, the playoffs move to Kansas, which has been tough on those in the postseason. From 2016-20, at least five of the eight playoff drivers have encountered trouble in the Kansas playoff race.

Last year, Gragson was one of them. He and Cindric collided on an early restart at Lap 15. Cindric ended up finishing 28th after extended repairs behind pit wall. But Gragson’s crew failed to complete repairs to his car before the damaged vehicle policy clock expired, and Gragson finished last in 36th.

In a media conference earlier this week, Gragson said that having a solid – and clean – day at Kansas is the top priority to set himself up for the Oct. 30 elimination race at Martinsville Speedway.

“I feel like we have a pretty good package for when we get to Martinsville, (but) we’ve been kind of hit and miss at Kansas,” Gragson said. “We’ve been there and had a ton of raw speed and can run in the top three, and we’ve been there and can’t even run 15th.

“That’s kind of a challenge realistically, going into it. But I believe in this team and I know everybody believes in me and we’re ready to go fight for it.”

Regarding his strategy going into Kansas, Gragson noted the importance of gaining as many stage points as possible while referencing a decision that Hemric made at Texas.

“I was quite surprised to see Daniel Hemric pit in the first stage at Texas, just because stage points are so hard to come by,” Gragson said. “But we really had different strategies and I only gained one point over the cutline.

“We’re close but we need a little buffer going into Martinsville. Hopefully, we can get some stage points this week and have a solid points day.”

On the other side of the cutline is Hemric, who will start on pole Saturday. As he continues to chase his first career win, he also has a chance to make the Xfinity Series’ Championship 4 on points for a third time (2017, 2018).

When asked if that makes him more adept at recognizing how many points he or a rival may need to gain at any given point, Hemric demurred.

Considering the volatility of the playoffs, all he thinks about is being better than he was the last race. No points targets. No worrying about other drivers.

“You just have to show up and try to do your part,” Hemric said. “It’s not easy by any means. I feel like you go into it and play to your strengths. I feel like we’ve done a good job of honing on those as the (No.) 18 team. That’s our play.

“We have to rely on our strengths. We have to go through the race weekends and execute to those strengths. You can’t control everybody else. You can’t control the decisions that they are going to make, how they are preparing, how they attack – but you can control yourself and that can take you far if you stick to that.”

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


Kyle Busch moved closer to the top spot after his win Sunday at WWT Raceway, but William Byron keeps hold of No. 1 after another top-10 run.

The series heads to Sonoma Raceway this weekend, the second race of the season on a road course.


(Previous ranking in parenthesis)

1. William Byron (1) — He goes into Sonoma with six consecutive top-10 finishes after his eighth-place result at WWT Raceway. Byron has led a series-high 717 laps this season.

2. Kyle Busch (4) — Recorded his third win of the season Sunday. He is tied with Byron for most wins this year. Busch scored 59 of a maximum 60 points and won his first stage of the year Sunday. He has 16 playoff points. Only Byron has more with 17 this season.

3. Kyle Larson (3) — His fourth-place finish continued his up-and-down season. In the last nine races, Larson has two wins, four top fives, a 20th-place result and four finishes of 30th or worse. He has led 588 laps this season, which ranks second this year to Byron.

4. Martin Truex Jr. (2) — His fifth-place finish is his sixth top 10 in the last eight races. He ranks third in laps led this year with 383.

5. Denny Hamlin (7) — Runner-up result at WWT Raceway is his fourth top 10 in the last seven races.

6. Ryan Blaney (10) — Followed Coca-Cola 600 win with a sixth-place run at WWT Raceway. He had an average running position of 2.6 on Sunday, second only to winner Kyle Busch’s average running position of 1.9.

7. Joey Logano (9) — Third-place finish is his second top 10 in the last four races.

8. Kevin Harvick (NR) — His 10th-place finish is his fourth consecutive finish of 11th or better.

9. Ross Chastain (6) — Lost the points lead after placing 22nd, his third consecutive finish outside the top 20.

10. Ricky Stenhouse Jr. (NR) — Headed for his eighth top 15 in a row until he was collected in a crash after the contact between Austin Cindric and Austin Dillon late in Sunday’s race.

Dropped out: Chase Elliott (5th), Tyler Reddick (8th)

NASCAR will not penalize Austin Cindric for incident with Austin Dillon


Despite Richard Childress and Austin Dillon saying that Austin Cindric intentionally wrecked Dillon late in Sunday’s Cup race at WWT Raceway, NASCAR will not penalize Cindric.

Elton Sawyer, NASCAR senior vice president of competition, said Tuesday on SiriusXM NASCAR Radio that there would be no penalty to Cindric after reviewing the contact.

Dillon and Childress were upset about the incident, which brought out the caution on Lap 220 of the 243-lap race. Dillon said NASCAR should suspend Cindric for the contact, just as NASCAR suspended Chase Elliott one race for hooking Denny Hamlin in the Coca-Cola 600.

Contact between the left front of Cindric’s car and the right rear of Dillon’s car sent Dillon up the track into Ricky Stenhouse Jr. Dillon finished 31st. Cindric continued and placed 13th.

Dillon told “I was wrecked intentionally by (Cindric), hooked right just like Chase and Denny and Bubba’s deal (in wrecking Kyle Larson at Las Vegas in 2022). He better be suspended next week.”

Childress said: “(Dillon) had drove up to about 10th until (Cindric) wrecked him in there on purpose, sort of a payback.”

Sawyer said a review of the incident included viewing video and data.

“We didn’t see anything — and haven’t seen anything — that really would rise to a level that would be a suspension or a penalty,” Sawyer said. “It looked like hard racing. One car coming up a little bit and another car going down.

“As we said last week, we take these incidents very serious when we see cars that are turned head-on into another car or head-on into the wall. I spent a lot of time (Monday) looking at that, looking at all the data, looking at TV footage and just deemed this one really hard racing.”

Sawyer said NASCAR plans to talk to both Cindric and Dillon “to make sure we’re all in a good place as we move forward to Sonoma.”



Seven Cup drivers entered in Xfinity race at Sonoma


Kyle Larson is among seven Cup drivers entered in Saturday’s Xfinity Series race at Sonoma Raceway.

The race marks the first time the Xfinity Series has competed at the California road course. Teams will get 50 minutes of practice Friday because this is a new event on the schedule. That additional time will give those Cup drivers more laps on the 1.99-mile road course.

MORE: Sonoma Xfinity entry list

Here is a look at what Xfinity rides the Cup drivers will pilot this weekend:

The race is scheduled to start at 8 p.m. ET Saturday.

The ARCA Menards Series West also is competing this weekend at Sonoma Raceway. Cup driver Ryan Preece is entered in that event. Xfinity drivers Cole Custer, Riley Herbst, Sammy Smith and Parker Retzlaff also are entered in that race, which will be held at 6:30 p.m. ET Friday.


Winners and losers at WWT Raceway


Winners and losers from Sunday’s Cup race at WWT Raceway:


Kyle BuschWins the pole, leads the most laps and holds the field off over the last five restarts to win the race. He scored six playoff points, giving him 16 on the season, second only to William Byron’s 17. Busch left Joe Gibbs Racing after last season for Richard Childress Racing. Busch’s three wins this year equals what JGR has done so far.

Ryan BlaneyHis sixth-place finish moved him into the points lead. He last led the points after the spring 2022 Richmond race. Blaney also won a stage Sunday to collect another playoff point. He has seven this season.

Kyle LarsonFourth-place finish was a big turnaround after struggles earlier in the race. It has not been easy for this team the last few weeks. He has three top-five finishes and four finishes of 20th or worse in the last seven races.

Daniel SuarezHis seventh-place finish moved him up two spots to 16th in the standings, the final playoff transfer spot at this time.


Ross ChastainHe finished 22nd for his third consecutive result outside the top 20. He entered the weekend leading the points and fell to fifth afterward. He is 29 points behind new series leader Ryan Blaney with 11 races left in the regular season.

Tyler ReddickRebounded from an early spin to lead but had his race end after a brake rotor failed. He was one of four drivers eliminated by brake rotor failures. The others were Carson Hocevar, Bubba Wallace and Noah Gragson.