Riley Herbst

Xfinity playoff grid after Indianapolis

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Chase Briscoe‘s continued dominance of the Xfinity Series over the weekend on the Indianapolis road course ensured no additional drivers locked themselves into the 12-driver playoff field.

Through 13 races, Briscoe and four other drivers have qualified for the playoffs via race wins. Briscoe, who has five race wins, leads the field with 28 playoff points.

The last two drivers currently in the top 12 are Riley Herbst (+19 points above cutline) and Brandon Brown (+6 points).

The first four drivers outside the top 12 are Myatt Snider (-6), Alex Labbe (-32), Jeremy Clements (-49) and Josh Williams (-57).

Chase Briscoe wins inaugural Xfinity race on Indy road course

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INDIANAPOLIS — Chase Briscoe had been practicing on a simulator since February for Saturday and he survived a four-car battle for the lead in the final laps to win Saturday’s inaugural Xfinity race on the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course. 

The Indiana native scored his fifth series win in 13 races this season, becoming only the second driver in series history to win as many races in the same time frame. Sam Ard holds the record with six wins in the first 13 races of the season.

MORE: Race results 

Briscoe celebrated Saturday’s victory with his team by climbing the fence, just as Tony Stewart used to do. Briscoe and the team also kissed the bricks at the start/finish line.

“Everybody knows that I grew up and my hero in racing was Tony Stewart,” Briscoe said. “To get to drive for him and watch him win the Brickyard, (climbing the fence) was always his signature thing and I just wanted to do it. Obviously it is not the same prestige as winning on the oval, but you still won at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.”

Justin Haley, who also is from Indiana, finished second. Noah Gragson was third and followed by AJ Allmendinger and Austin Cindric.

“I think we saw that the racing was amazing,” Haley said.

Briscoe earned the win by outbraking Allmendinger into Turn 1 to take the lead with two laps to go. The top four cars ran two abreast through Turns 1 and 2. Briscoe kept the lead and pulled away as Allmendinger and Cindric made contact racing for second.

“I think today is a statement win,” Briscoe said. “I don’t think anybody had us as a favorite today with Allmendinger and Cindric in the field but we knew down deep we could run with those guys.”

Cindric’s race took a turn when NASCAR penalized him for jumping the restart. Cindric was furious on the radio about the penalty, saying Riley Herbst pushed him but that didn’t matter to series officials. Cindric was leading by the time the penalty was called and fell back to 31st by the time he serve his penalty by driving through pit road on Lap 31.

STAGE 1 WINNER: Austin Cindric

STAGE 2 WINNER: Chase Briscoe

WHO HAD A GOOD RACE: Justin Haley’s runner-up finish is his best result in six road course events. … Preston Pardus finished 10th in his third career start. … Jade Buford finished 14th in his Xfinity Series debut.

WHO HAD A BAD RACE: It’s hard to say that a sixth consecutive top-five at a road course is a bad race, but Austin Cindric, one of the favorites, was penalized for jumping a restart, had a slow pit stop when he parked his car too close to pit wall and lost positions later when a tire changer had trouble removing a wheel. … Brandon Jones finished 37th.

NOTABLE: All seven of Chase Briscoe’s Xfinity Series wins have come on different tracks.

NEXT: The series races Thursday at Kentucky Speedway, the first of back-to-back night races there for the series.

Defining moments of the Xfinity Series season

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It took five months, but the Xfinity Series has reached the halfway point in its regular season following last Sunday’s event at Pocono Raceway.

The series has completed 12 races ahead of Saturday’s inaugural race on the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course (3 p.m. ET on NBC).

A year after it was dominated by the “Big 3” of Tyler Reddick, Christopher Bell and Cole Custer, the series is not lacking dominant drivers, controversy and excitement.

Here’s a look back the season so far through key quotes, moments and stats.

Key quotes

“I’m speechless right now, I didn’t think this would come. … I spent a lot of time with (team owner) Dale (Earnhardt) Jr. this week, talking for about two hours. Wanted to be a better speedway race. He told me ‘Go have fun. Wreckers or checkers, you got to manage your gaps, be there at the end and just go lead the damn the thing.’ That’s what we did.” – Noah Gragson after winning his first career Xfinity Series race in February at Daytona.

“I’m the kind of guy that believes in racing people how you’re raced. I’m not going to take any kind of stuff like that. If (Gragson) wants to send that kind of message early, then game on.” – Myatt Snider a few days after he was spun by Gragson during the Xfinity race at Las Vegas.

“This is more than a race win, it’s the biggest day of my life after the toughest day of my life. To beat the best there is just so satisfying.” – Briscoe after his emotional win over Kyle Busch at Darlington.

“When you’re a man and you throw a punch, you better be able to take a punch.” – Gragson following his contact with Allgaier and win at Bristol.

“Oh my God, oh my God, I won on an oval. Do you like that? Whoo!” – Allmendinger after his victory at Atlanta.

(Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)

Key Moments

– Gragson held off Burton and Timmy Hill in a two-lap shootout to win the season-opener at Daytona for his first career Xfinity victory. His celebration included sliding across the hood of his car like Bo and Luke Duke from “The Dukes of Hazzard” and performing a burnout until he caught the track on fire.

– Burton kept teammate Riley Herbst at bay in the closing laps to win at Auto Club Speedway for his first career Xfinity victory. He joined his uncle Ward Burton in earning his first Xfinity win on Leap Day (Feb. 29).

Brandon Jones passed teammate Kyle Busch with 20 laps to go at Phoenix and went on to secure his second career Xfinity win.

– In one of the most memorable and emotional finishes in recent memory, Chase Briscoe engaged in a duel with Busch over the last few laps at Darlington, making contact multiple times before Briscoe took the checkered flag. The win came days after Briscoe and his wife learned she had experienced a miscarriage.

– While battling for the lead with five laps to go in the scheduled distance at Bristol, teammates Gragson and Allgaier made contact, causing Allgaier to lose control and crash, eliminating him. In overtime, Gragson beat Briscoe and Jones for his second win of the year.

A.J. Allmendinger led the final 37 laps and won at Atlanta, scoring his first ever motorsports victory on an oval track.

– During the four races that made up the Dash 4 Cash program, Kaulig Racing claimed three of the four $100,000 bonuses, as Ross Chastain claimed $200,000 and Allmendinger claimed $100,000. It scored two wins (Allmendinger at Atlanta and Justin Haley at Talladega) and seven top fives.

– Briscoe used his front bumper to get Chastain loose on the first lap of the overtime finish for Sunday’s race at Pocono, passed him in Turn 2 and went on to a series-leading fourth victory.

Key Stats

– Through 12 races, there have been three first-time Xfinity winners. Noah Gragson opened the year with his win at Daytona and has been followed by Harrison Burton (Auto Club Speedway) and Justin Haley (Talladega).

Chase Briscoe in victory lane after his win at Pocono. (Photo by Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images)

– Through 12 races, there have been seven different winners, with Chase Briscoe leading with four wins. Last year, there were five different winners at this point. Busch, Bell and Custer were tied with three wins each at that point.

– Briscoe’s four wins put him in a five-way tie for second all-time among Xfinity regulars for most wins through 12 races. Sam Ard is the leader with five (1984).

– Burton and Ross Chastain are tied with 10 top-10 finishes each. Burton set a series rookie record by opening the season with 10 consecutive top 10s. He’s crashed and finished 32nd in the last two races.

– The final lead change came with less than 10 laps to go in seven of the last eight races and with two laps to go or less in five of the last eight races.

– Lead changes in the last eight races are up 23% compared to the prior eight races.

Erik Jones: It’s time for better finishes and future

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Erik Jones doesn’t need to look at a clock to know now is his time.

The Michigan native earned a season-best third-place finish – and his second top-five in the last three starts – in Sunday’s back half of the NASCAR Cup doubleheader weekend at Pocono Raceway.

It couldn’t have come at a better time, as Jones is closing in on the end of a one-year contract extension with Joe Gibbs Racing he signed last year. His future remains uncertain.

“We started talking to them about next year and what we’re going to do moving forward,” Jones said after the race.

“I feel like right now that’s kind of the plan, working with them. We’ll see what happens, but I feel good about it right now moving forward.”

David Wilson, president of Toyota Racing Development, said on June 17 that it’s his hope to keep both Jones and Christopher Bell in the manufacturer’s fold.

“We all know that Erik is at the end of his current contract,” Wilson said. “What’s the plan there? We don’t know. We’re working on that. (Car owner Joe Gibbs) and I are talking about that now every week. Our desire obviously is to keep both of those young men in our company. How we do it is yet to be determined.”

Jones’ finish Sunday was a strong rebound after finishing 38th in Saturday’s race due to a wreck.

“We needed a good run, a good rebound,” he said. “It’s great we finished third, but in a way it’s frustrating because I think our primary car (in Saturday’s) race was quite a bit better than our backup car was today, but obviously third is a good run.”

After struggling through much of the season – including seven showings of 20th or worse in the first 14 events – Jones believes he’s turned a corner and sees more promising results ahead.

“It’s nice to rebound and hope we can keep the momentum going next week and keep going strong,” Hamlin said. “It’s nice to run a normal race. I think on a normal weekend we can run top five and I think we showed that today.”

Sunday’s finish – Jones’ sixth top-10 in eight career Cup starts at Pocono – also put Jones back in the top 16 Cup playoff rankings.

“We feel like we definitely should make the playoffs,” said Jones, who entered Sunday six points out of a playoff spot. “We’ve done that the last few years and I don’t see this year as any different.

“Hopefully we can keep moving forward. We’ve got good racetracks coming up for us, places we’ve run well at in the past, I think we’re going to keep racking up some good finishes here and hopefully get a win here pretty soon.

“I think our cars are way faster than a 16th-place team. Hopefully we can keep up the good runs. We just need three-four more races running strong like we need to, get some stage points and we’ll be in the top 12 pretty quickly.

“… It’s not even a question in my mind, making the playoffs or not. I feel we’ll be strong enough here to get a win at a race here in the next month or two.”

Earlier in the day, Jones drew attention for a tweet he posted criticizing over-aggressive driving by many in the field of the Xfinity Series race, which preceded the Cup race.

The most notable example of that was when Justin Haley hooked Riley Herbst on the Pocono straightaway. NASCAR held Haley for two laps on pit road after the incident and met with Haley and crew chief Alex Yontz after the race.

“The Xfinity Series is in kind of a weird spot right now,” Jones said. “There’s a lot of young guys, very talented guys, don’t get me wrong, but definitely some of the guys can click it down a notch.

“I watch it on TV every week and it’s like, man, some of those guys are so fast and some of the things they do just blows your mind. The way I grew up racing, hooking somebody on the straightaway is pretty out there. I don’t think you want to face the repercussions of what would have happened coming into the pits.

“It’s just kind of a lack of respect. I grew up with a lot of respect in racing and respect for my equipment and competitors. I don’t believe in intentionally wrecking people. I think that’s pretty low, low-class and doesn’t belong in our sport. It’s just Saturday night, Mickey Mouse stuff and I don’t like to see it.”

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NASCAR penalizes Justin Haley for aggressive driving

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Aggressive driving cost Justin Haley his chance at the final $100,000 Xfinity Dash 4 Cash prize in Sunday’s Xfinity Series race.

Haley was assessed a rare two-lap hold penalty on pit road for aggressive driving for putting Riley Herbst into the wall with 42 laps to go.

Haley and crew chief Alex Yontz have been called to meet with NASCAR officials after the race.

Here’s the exchange between Yontz and Haley on the team radio:

Yontz: “So you have to be the one to move somebody first. But if you retaliate, which they think that was retaliation, they hold you.”

Haley: “I had a run at the wall, I had to lift out of the gas and turn left.”

The contact knocked Haley out of contention for the Dash 4 Cash prize, leaving Ross Chastain, Austin Cindric and Alex Labbe left. Cindric would be involved in a multi-car later in the race, knocking him out of the race.

Labbe also had minor contact with the wall at the end of Stage 1 but remained in the race.

The aggressive driving wasn’t just about Haley. NASCAR Cup driver Erik Jones tweeted his disappointment in the overall tone of the race.

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