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JR Motorsports announces driver, crew chief lineup

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JR Motorsports announced Monday the driver, crew chief lineup for its four Xfinity Series entries this season, including two returning drivers.

The entries include the full-time efforts of veterans Justin Allgaier and Michael Annett, in addition to rookie driver Noah Gragson.

Alllgaier, the senior driver with the team at four years, will drive the No. 7 Chevrolet under the direction of crew chief Jason Burdett, who has led the team since 2015.

At 32, Allgaier is the oldest driver at JRM. He’s older than Annett by 18 days.

Annett is back in the No. 5 Chevrolet for his third season with the team. He is paired with crew chief Travis Mack, who took over crew chief duties on the No. 5 for 13 of the last 14 races in 2018.

Gragson makes the move to the Xfinity Series after two seasons in the Gander Outdoors Truck Series with Kyle Busch Motorsports.

Gragson will step into the No. 1 Chevrolet to replace Elliott Sadler who stepped away from full-time racing after 2018. Gragson will have crew chief Dave Elenz and the crew that worked with champion Tyler Reddick in 2018 on the No. 9 team.

The No. 9 team will be a multi-driver effort this season anchored by eight races with Zane Smith in the cockpit. The team will be led by first-time crew chief Taylor Moyer. Moyer joins JRM after four years with Hendrick Motorsports as a race engineer for Kasey Kahne and William Byron.

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Zane Smith gets eight-race deal to drive JR Motorsports’ No. 9 car

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Zane Smith, a member of the 2018-19 NASCAR Next class, has signed a deal with JR Motorsports to drive its No. 9 Chevrolet in eight Xfinity Series races in 2019.

Smith, 19, will compete at Las Vegas Motor Speedway (March 2), Bristol Motor Speedway (April 6), Richmond Raceway (April 12 and Sept. 20), Dover International Speedway (May 4 and Oct. 5) and Iowa Speedway (June 16 and July 27).

He will be sponsored by The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas for the Las Vegas race.

Smith joins JR Motorsports after making 36 starts in the ARCA Racing Series since in 2016. He finished second in the standings this year after earning four wins and 12 top fives in 20 starts.

The native of Huntington Beach, California, also made his Gander Outdoors Truck Series debut in June at Gateway Motorsports Park with DGR-Crosley. He finished fifth.

The move confirms that the No. 9 team will be piloted by multiple drivers next season.

“Zane is going to be an important part of the lineup for the No. 9 team next year,” said team owner Dale Earnhardt Jr. said in a press release. “It’s a great opportunity for him. The team is going to take on a different feel with a handful of drivers taking turns throughout the year, but the goal remains the same – to help these drivers gain experience and continue to advance their careers. We started the Xfinity program with that mindset and it’s something we’re proud to continue.”

The other drivers for the No. 9 as well as the crew chief and partner lineup will be named at a later date.

“I’m super pumped to be a part of JR Motorsports with the No. 9 team for eight races,” Smith said in the press release. “I’m counting down the days until Las Vegas, which will be my debut in the Xfinity series. I can’t thank The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas enough for making this happen, along with all of my other partners who have gotten me this far. Having Dale and Kelley (Earnhardt Miller) as bosses and to lean on is going to be awesome. They are huge icons of the sport. It is unreal to be a part of their team, so I’m just going to try and take it all in.”

Smith joins a JRM lineup that includes full-time drivers Justin Allgaier, Michael Annett and rookie Noah Gragson.

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Cole Custer wins Xfinity race in Texas with last-lap pass

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Cole Custer won Saturday’s Xfinity race at Texas Motor Speedway with a last-lap pass of Tyler Reddick.

Custer, who snapped a 30-race winless streak, passed Reddick on the backstretch after their cars banged doors.

It is Custer’s second Xfinity Series win. Custer had to rebound from a penalty for a crew member going over the pit wall too soon on Lap 127.

“I can’t believe it,” Custer told NBCSN at the start-finish line. “We just did all we could. I drove it in deeper than I have all weekend into (Turn) 1 trying to get on (Reddick’s) bumper. It worked out.”

Reddick, who placed second, admitted to making a “mistake” on the last lap as they exited Turn 2, which allowed Custer to get a run on him.

“I’m not mad at all with what happened there,” Reddick told NBCSN. “I think a lot of him. He’s a great driver.”

The win locks Custer into the championship four at Homestead-Miami Speedway, the site of his first series win.

“We haven’t won all year and we’ve been so close,” Custer said. “We kept going and this is the perfect time to (win).”

The top five was completed by Austin Cindric, John Hunter Nemechek and Justin Allgaier.

STAGE 1 WINNER: Daniel Hemric

STAGE 2 WINNER: Cole Custer

MORE: Points, race results

WHO HAD A GOOD DAY: Austin Cindric earned his fifth career top five after he started from the rear in a backup car and suffered damage to his right-front bumper on the first lap … John Hunter Nemechek bounced back from a Lap 1 spin to finish fourth … Justin Allgaier earned his first top five at Texas in 17 starts.

WHO HAD A BAD DAY: Christopher Bell, who started from the pole, earned his second consecutive DNF after he was spun by Austin Cindric and wrecked on Lap 134 … Ryan Truex wrecked on Lap 126 and finished 33rd … Brandon Jones managed to place sixth and Michael Annett finished 16th after they made contact and spun on a Lap 97 restart. Jones later got loose and wrecked teammate Ryan Preece on Lap 139. Preece placed 31st.

NOTABLE: The race saw a track record 13 cautions … Cole Custer has finished in the top five in all four of his Xfinity starts at Texas.

QUOTE OF THE RACE No. 1: “The 2 (Matt Tifft) drove into the back of me off of (Turn 2) and that put me in the middle and put the 3 (Shane Lee) underneath me. He just lost it underneath me and took me out. Nothing the 3 could do. The 2 is the one that put me in that situation. It’s all good. We work really good together. It’s just a frustrating day. You’re bound to have days where we run into each but never happy about it when it happens.” – Daniel Hemric to NBC Sports and NASCAR.com on the incident with his two teammates on Lap 194.

QUOTE OF THE RACE No. 2: “The good thing is we ran together the whole race and both of our cars had speed. I think both we’re both frustrated at the end because we felt like it played out to where we got to the back of the pack and we were both trying to make our way back up. Honestly, I don’t think I ever touched (Hemric). I think the air got him free. I had momentum behind, so once he got sideways, I just tried to duck out to make sure he didn’t get turned and I had a clear path too. He was frustrated that he got put in that situation but he understood that I had to go. If I would have gave, somebody would have done the same to me and put me in the same spot. It’s so narrow coming off of (Turn) 2. We’ll be find. We’ll talk it out.” – Matt Tifft to NBC Sports

WHAT’S NEXT: Whelen Trusted to Perform 200 at ISM Raceway at 3:30 p.m. ET on Nov. 10 on NBCSN.

Video: Xfinity playoff contenders out after Lap 1 crash at Kansas

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Three of the eight playoff contenders were eliminated in a crash on the first lap of Saturday’s Xfinity race at Kansas Speedway, which opens the Round of 8.

Justin Allgaier, Christopher Bell, Austin Cindric and Cole Custer were involved in a nine-car wreck as the field raced through Turn 2. Allgaier, Bell and Cindric were eliminated while Custer’s team was able to make repairs to his No. 00 Ford.

It began when Allgaier got loose and made contact with Bell.

“Just hate it for everybody that we took out on Lap 1. It’s uncalled for, ” Allgaier told NBC. “That one’s on me.”

Bell, who won this race last year, told NBC he “didn’t really see much of anything” as the wreck developed. “Just heartbroken. This is one of my favorite race tracks we go to. Especially after the run I had last year. This was the race I was really looking forward to when we started the year back in February.”

Allgaier earned his second DNF of the playoffs while Bell and Cindric earned their first.

“It was just a racing incident,” Cindric said. “You don’t really expect something that big to happen in front of you on the first lap. … It is unfortunate that it happened that early. Huge points implications on my end and the owners championship end. I have to put my head down the next couple weeks and figure it out.”

Non-playoff drivers Michael Annett, Ryan Truex, Spencer Gallagher and Chase Briscoe were also involved.

The race restarted on Lap 12. The field was immediately slowed by a one-car incident involving Brandon Jones on the backstretch.

Daniel Hemric wins Xfinity pole at Kansas Speedway

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Daniel Hemric won the pole for today’s Xfinity Series race at Kansas Speedway (3 p.m. ET on NBC).

Hemric claimed his fourth pole of the year with a top speed of 183.955 mph.

The top five was completed by Christopher Bell (182.784 mph), Justin Allgaier (182.426), Austin Cindric (182.254) and Brandon Jones. (182.254).

The top 10 was rounded out by Tyler Reddick, Ryan Preece, Shane Lee, Matt Tifft and Cole Custer.

In Round 2 John Hunter Nemechek qualified 13th. He was followed by Ryan Truex, Michael Annett, Ryan Reed, Spencer Gallagher and Ty Majeski.

Round 1 had a lengthy red flag with 1:05 left in it for fluid on the track. That allowed Reed, Truex and John Nemechek’s cars to get through inspection and make a lap.

Click here for the starting lineup.