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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).

Xfinity Series playoff grid after Pocono

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Things are getting tight in the Xfinity Series playoff standings.

After 12 races, four points separate the last playoff-eligible driver, 12th-ranked Myatt Snider, and Brandon Brown. Snider finished fourth on Sunday at Pocono. Brown was 33rd at Pocono. Snider gained 40 points on Brown in that race.

Next up for the series is Saturday’s race on the road course at Indianapolis Motor Speedway (3 p.m. ET on NBC).

Race winners this season who are locked into the playoffs are Chase Briscoe (22 playoff points), Noah Gragson (15), Harrison Burton (10), Brandon Jones (7) and Justin Haley (6).

 

 

 

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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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Austin Cindric seeking first ‘triangle win’ at Pocono

Austin Cindric
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Austin Cindric is somewhat amused at the concern about a certain stat on his racing record.

It’s the zero that can be found if you look up his number of wins on oval tracks in NASCAR. He’s winless in 95 starts on paved ovals across the Xfinity and Trucks Series. Since 2018, he’s earned 21 top fives on ovals.

His three wins have come exclusively on road courses.

“It’s funny because I feel like more people put an emphasis on my first oval win or whenever that will be than I do myself,” Cindric said in a Zoom press conference earlier this week. “Personally, I know that I’m capable of it. I’ve proven it to myself enough times. I feel like as far as when it’s gonna happen, I think when it’s your day, it’s your day.”

Could that day be today?

The Xfinity Series competes at Pocono Raceway (12:30 p.m. ET on FS1) in the series’ only visit to the 2.5-mile speedway this season.

But Cindric, in his second full-time Xfinity campaign, doesn’t view a Pocono win as an oval win. Even though you only turn left when racing there, it only has three turns.

“For me, if we win this weekend at Pocono, then it will be my first triangle win and I’ll still be looking for my first oval win,” Cindric said. “You’re never satisfied, but overall it’s been a great year for us. Really, the way we ended last year, I feel like that carries over. We’ve made changes to our cars and made changes to my driving and I’ve been able to really hone in on the last couple percent as far as what it takes to be the best in this series and I feel like that’s carried straight over.”

Through 11 races this year – all on ovals – Cindric has six top fives plus two other top 10s. In the last four races he’s led 160 laps in total without taking a checkered flag.

“I feel like there’s a lot of things in my career building up to this year and being able to use the resources that I have and obviously being able to execute well, I think that’s important,” Cindric said. “I’ve got the same core group of guys that I’ve had the last couple of years and I feel like that’s important, as well as far as being able to run for a championship and I’m proud of that effort.

“It’s been frustrating a little bit the last couple of weeks not being able to win, especially having such fast cars. You probably saw the peak of that frustration in the second race at Homestead (when he led 60 laps, cut a tire and finished 10th), but, for me, I’m pretty motivated to put us at the front of that field.”

His opportunity today to lead the field comes with an extra incentive. Cindric, who starts ninth, is one of the four drivers eligible for the final $100,000 Dash 4 Cash bonus. He’ll take on Justin Haley, Ross Chastain and Alex Labbe.

Today’s race is Cindric’s third Pocono start. He’s earned finishes of fourth and seventh in the first two.

“I feel like you’re always driving your own strategy there,” Cindric said. “I re-watched (an old) race with my team and understanding how we’re gonna play that race. But for me it’s a fun track because it almost reminds me of Fontana in the fact that you have to have a fast car to be able to win the race because it is such a big track, such a long straightaway on both ends.

“But, at the same time, there are a lot of driving characteristics that you have to understand and that you have to be able to manipulate throughout the race to be able to be good there. I think that plays into our hands. I’ve always liked that place. I like anywhere you can use the brake pedal and depending on how your car is you can downshift, so I’m excited for it. I think it’s another great opportunity for us to run well.”

Alex Labbe taking best shot at Dash 4 Cash bonus at Pocono

Alex Labbe
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Crew members for Xfinity Series team DGM Racing were busy loading wrecked and damaged cars in the Talladega garage area last weekend when they received some surprising, but good news.

Wayne Auton, director of the Xfinity Series, approached the team and told owner Mario Gosselin that his driver Alex Labbe had qualified for the final round of the Dash 4 Cash, to be held Sunday at Pocono Raceway (12:30 p.m ET on FS1).

“Everybody was pretty happy,” Labbe told NBC Sports.

Labbe, driver of the No. 90 Chevrolet this weekend, had been sixth on a late-race restart in Talladega, fell to around 12th and rallied to ninth before the checkered flag. Between him and fourth-place finisher Austin Cindric were four part-time drivers who won’t be racing at Pocono.

The prospect of going up against three other competitors – Justin Haley, Ross Chastain and Cindric – for a $100,000 bonus hadn’t even crossed Labbe’s mind.

“We’re a smaller team and we don’t really focus on that stuff,” Labbe said. “It’s pretty cool for an organization like ours to qualify for that kind of deal. It’s huge boost for us … all the media attention we’re going to get during the weekend, we’re just going to try do our best and showcase what we can do Sunday.”

One reason the possibility of earning $100,000 is important for Labbe is that it could extend his season. Though the Canadian driver has competed in all 11 races so far, he’s not guaranteed a full season.

“We’re still pretty much week-to-week, but we’re probably going to run the next two to three weeks, for sure,” Labbe said. “Trying to build up some momentum and I think that situation (Dash 4 Cash) is really going to definitely help us a lot. With that run we had last week and the Dash 4 Cash and next week at Indy, I think it’s going to be a pretty good stint for us. We’re just going to try to get everything we can and hope it can make us go further in the season.”

Working in his favor are sponsors who have stepped up to give the 27-year-old driver his best possible shot at the $100,000. Labbe will have Larue Snowblowers and Rousseau Automotive on his car. With their support, DGM Racing was able to lease an ECR engine for Sunday’s race. It will be the first time in 58 career Xfinity Series starts that Labbe’s car has had a leased engine.

“The motor we’ve run have always been owned by the team,” Labbe said. “We know they’re always down a little bit, for sure. … But it’s definitely going to be the best motor package that I’ve run in the Xfinity Series. It’s really tough to know what we’re going to get in an engine. Pocono’s a completely different track.”

Labbe has only made one start at Pocono. That came in 2018, his only full-time season, when he finished 18th.

One difference in Sunday’s race is that Xfinity teams will not be using a high downforce package that was used in 2018.

“Going to be a lot different for sure,” Labbe said. “We were pretty much flat out through the corners too, it was almost like superspeedway racing. It was all about the draft, but this time it’s going to be with the normal package. … I think we’ll be fine. I kind of like that kind of track. I will not classify myself as a true road (course) racer, but I really like the road racing. I think Pocono is a little like a road race … I think it fits my driving style pretty decent. I just hope we can get there and have a solid car to start the race and work on it and try to race into the top 10.”

Going against two Kaulig Racing cars and one Team Penske car, Labbe knows “we’re the underdog.

“We have everything to gain. For sure I’m a little more nervous  … we really want to see what we can do with that kind of motor plan. That’s going to be a big challenge. … We know that Penske car and those Kaulig cars are going to be really, really hard to beat. We never know what can happen.”