KANSAS CITY, Kan. —With one race before the Xfinity Series’ Championship 4 event, no driver has clinched a spot to race for a title.
Saturday’s race at Kansas Speedway saw two playoff drivers wreck and two others spin.
For the fourth time in five playoff races, a non-playoff driver won. Ty Gibbs was the latest non-playoff driver to win, taking the checkered flag Saturday at Kansas Speedway.
That leaves all four positions for the Nov. 6 championship race at Phoenix Raceway open going into next weekend’s race at Martinsville Speedway.
Reigning champion Austin Cindric and AJ Allmendinger, who have each won five races this season, are tied atop the points standings. They are both 47 points above the cutline. The most points a driver can score in a race is 60 points.
“The good thing about Martinsville is it takes a lot to hit hard enough to get you out of the race,” Cindric said. “We probably just need to finish that one and we will be in the show. That is really all that matters for us, but I would really like to try to race for a win at Martinsville.”
Justin Allgaier is confident Cindric and Allmendinger will advance to the title race.
“Let’s just be honest,” Allgaier said, “passing those guys would be an act of Congress.”
Allgaier is third in the standings. He’s nine point above the cutline.
“Nine points is not enough by any means,” he said after placing ninth at Kansas.
Daniel Hemric holds the final transfer spot. He’s seven points above the cutline and Justin Haley.
Hemric entered the race below the cutline and overcame an early spin to place 15th and move above the cutline.
He was running second when he got loose and then hit from behind. Both he and Noah Gragson spun. Hemric had left front damage. Gragson had right-side damage.
“When you get your back put against the wall, you try to figure out how to claw and make the most of your day and that’s what we did,” Hemric said.
That Haley is only seven points out of a transfer spot is significant. His Kaulig Racing team has struggled on 1.5-mile tracks this season compared to his playoff rivals. He finished seventh at Texas last week and placed fourth Saturday. The key Saturday was that his team saved a set of tires for late in the race. Those tires helped him gain nine spots to place fourth.
When most of the field pitted on Lap 156, Haley was among those who stayed out.
“We’re like, ‘we can stay on the same strategy and run 10th,’” Haley said. “We’re in the playoffs. You’ve just got to do something. You can’t play defense all day. You’ve got to get on the offensive side of it.”
Gragson is 24 points from the cutline after he was collected in a crash. Teammate Sam Mayer and Harrison Burton made contact that sent Burton into the wall in front of Gragson.
While history guarantees nothing, Gragson finished second at Martinsville in April to teammate Josh Berry and was third there in last year’s playoff race.
Brandon Jones is 40 points from the cutline after spinning in Saturday’s race and finishing 11th. Jones likely needs to win to advance.
Burton, who is 51 points below the cutline, needs to win to do so. He won at Martinsville last fall.