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Xfinity Series practice report from Kentucky

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Cole Custer was fastest in the final Xfinity Series practice session Thursday at Kentucky Speedway.

Custer posted a top speed of 180.210 mph around the 1.5-mile track.

The top five was completed by Christopher Bell (179.934 mph), Tyler Reddick (179.294), Noah Gragson (178.938) and Brandon Jones (178.902).

Custer recorded the most laps in the session with 52 and had the best 10-lap average at 178.875 mph.

The session was slowed once for Chad Finchum making contact with the wall.

Click here for the practice report.

First practice

Christopher Bell was fastest in the first practice session

Bell posted a top speed of 177.579 mph.

The top five was completed by John Hunter Nemechek (177.049 mph), Reddick (176.857), Custer (176.171) and Austin Cindric (175.970).

Cindric was in the top five after his crew chief, Brian Wilson, was ejected from the race weekend due to a L1 level penalty.

Michael Annett recorded the most laps in the session with 43. He was 11th on the speed chart.

Click here for the practice report.

The final practice session is scheduled for 6-6:50 p.m. ET.

 

Cole Custer dominates for fourth Xfinity win of season

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JOLIET, Illinois – Cole Custer had one of the most dominant performances of his career, leading 151 of 200 laps to win Saturday’s Camping World 300 NASCAR Xfinity Series race at Chicagoland Speedway.

Having previously won this season at Fontana, Richmond and Pocono, Custer joins Christopher Bell as the only two drivers to earn four NASCAR Xfinity Series victories apiece thus far this season.

Awesome car, I don’t know how it could have been any better,” Custer told crew chief Mike Shiplett over the team radio after grabbing the checkered flag.

The 21-year-old Custer held off a strong challenge in the closing laps from pole sitter Joey Logano – making his first Xfinity start of the year – and Bell to earn the sixth win of his Xfinity Series career (in 86 starts).

“This is a great track, I’ve wanted to win here for a long time,” Custer said. “You can see we’ve been getting better and better over the year. … It means a lot.”

Bell, who finished third, was disqualified about an hour after the checkered flag fell when his car was found to be too low in post-race inspection. He becomes the second driver to be disqualified in a NASCAR race in the last 13 days (Ross Chastain was DQ’d after winning the Trucks race at Iowa on June 16, also for the front end of his truck being too low).

Before Bell’s disqualification, Custer was asked about beating his two top challengers in the series, Bell and Tyler Reddick. “The three of us are racing for wins every weekend,” Custer said. “I think we will continue to get better throughout this summer stretch and have something to look out for.”

Logano finished second, followed by Michael Annett, Brandon Jones and Austin Cidric. Sixth through 10th were Noah Gragson (highest-finishing rookie), Justin Haley, Ross Chastain, Reddick and Riley Herbst.

Race results: Click here

Xfinity standings: Click here

Logano paid Custer a big compliment, saying, “He did good. It’s funny when you come down to the next level down and see the next up-and-coming talent, he’s ready for it (NASCAR Cup), I can say that much.”

BJ McLeod hit the wall on Lap 173, bringing out the caution, leading several drivers to pit for tires and a final tank of gas. On the ensuing restart on Lap 179, Custer dove to the bottom of the track and easily went from fourth to first and set sail the remainder of the way for the victory.

Several drivers were penalized prior to the race and dropped to the back of the field for the green flag: The No. 98 (Chase Briscoe) and No. 78 (Vinnie Miller) for unapproved adjustments, the No. 28 (Shane Lee) for an engine change, the No. 17 (Josh Bilicki) for a driver change (the team had not listed a driver name on the original entry list), the No. 38 (Jeff Green) for missing the driver/crew chief meeting and the No. 42 (Chad Finchum) for crew chief (Brian Keselowski) missing the driver/crew chief meeting.

Stage 1 winner: Cole Custer (6th stage win of season)

Stage 2 winner: Joey Logano

Who had a good race: Cole Custer put on a driving clinic with his performance. He went high when he needed to and also dropped low, essentially using virtually every inch of the track he needed. While so much has been said about Christopher Bell this season, if Saturday’s performance is a good indicator, keep your eyes on Custer as a potential Xfinity champion.

Who had a bad race: Illinois native Justin Allgaier had a rough day. He had a solo spin on Lap 11 while running third, was forced into the wall on Lap 116 after Jeffrey Earnhardt got loose and washed up the racetrack in front of Allgaier, and then hit the wall hard on Lap 129. He immediately took his car to the garage, his day over. “Just bummed to be here,” Allgaier told NBCSN after being checked at the infield care center. “It was a rough day … a very disappointing day.”

Notable: Joey Logano drove like he’s been competing all season in the Xfinity Series, even though this was his first start of the season in NASCAR’s junior league. Logano started from the pole and had the second-best car on track, but didn’t have quite enough to overtake Custer.

Next race: Circle K Firecracker 250; Friday July 5 at 7:30 p.m. ET; Daytona International Speedway (NBCSN, Motor Racing Network/SiriusXM NASCAR Radio).

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Practice report for Friday’s Xfinity sessions at Chicagoland

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Defending NASCAR Cup champion Joey Logano was fastest in Friday’s second and final NASCAR Xfinity Series practice at Chicagoland Speedway.

Driving the No. 12 Team Penske Ford Mustang, Logano paced the field around the 1.5-mile oval at 174.554 mph. This is Logano’s first appearance in an Xfinity Series race field this season.

Tyler Reddick was second-fastest at 173.896 mph.

Cole Custer was third-fastest (173.879 mph), followed by Austin Cindric (173.874), Justin Allgaier (173.745), Noah Gragson (173.734), Ross Chastain (173.533), Brandon Jones (172.855), Zane Smith (172.706) and Ryan Sieg (172.315).

The start of the session was delayed by more than 30 minutes due to a lightning strike that occurred near the track, as well as a severe thunderstorm warning that was issued for the area due east of the track.

NASCAR held off on sending cars back on-track before the abbreviated 30-minute session began.

Click here for the speed chart from the second practice.

FIRST PRACTICE:

Tyler Reddick was fastest (174.916 mph) in Friday’s first Xfinity Series practice at Chicagoland Speedway. Reddick was nearly 2 mph faster than Cole Custer (173.182 mph), followed by Christopher Bell (173.044), Joey Logano (172.927) and Michael Annett (172.822).

Sixth through 10th were Ross Chastain (172.535 mph), Justin Haley (172.177), Chase Briscoe (171.985), Zane Smith (171.832) and John Hunter Nemechek (171.478).

With about eight minutes to go in the session, Chastain skimmed the outside wall but damage was very minor.

Overconfidence by the driver,” Chastain told NBC Sports. “Just a little too confident trying to run the top. So I have to learn and be a little bit better.”

Four drivers were penalized for various violations:

* The No. 28 of Shane Lee – 15 minutes for being late to inspection.

* The No. 42 of Chad Finchum – 15 minutes for being late to inspection.

* The No. 90 of Ronnie Bassett Jr. – 15 minutes for failing inspection twice.

* The No. 81 of Jeffrey Earnhardt – 30 minutes for being late to inspection and failing inspection twice.

Click here for the full practice speed chart.

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The new ‘old guy’: Justin Allgaier benefitting from experience as he plays catchup

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Justin Allgaier is quick to admit his new role in the Xfinity Series garage.

“I’m the old guy,” Allgaier told NBC Sports. “Let’s be honest, I really am.”

Well, he’s not that old.

Morgan Shepherd‘s there every week but I’m definitely younger than Morgan,” Allgaier said of the 77-year-old Shepherd.

But when it comes to the championship contenders in the Xfinity Series, Elliott’s Sadler’s retirement from full-time racing at 43 caused the definition of “old” to become considerably younger.

Allgaier, who turned 33 on June 6, is in the midst of his ninth full-time season on the Xfinity circuit.

He is only two weeks older than his JR Motorsports teammate Michael Annett. But among the rest of the drivers in the top 10 in points, his next oldest competition is Christopher Bell and Chase Briscoe, who are 24 years old and were born a day apart.

“It’s weird, but on the flip side I think it’s interesting because I look back at my career and kind of the balance of where I’ve come from and where I’m at now,” Allgaier said. “I didn’t get an opportunity to come to NASCAR until I was quite a bit older than some of these guys. I was 23, almost 24 I guess whenever I got my first (full-time) opportunity.”

The Xfinity Series was a different world when Allgaier made his first career start on Oct. 10, 2008 at Charlotte Motor Speedway driving for Team Penske.

“There was (53) cars that entered and (12) of them were Cup regulars,” Allgaier said. “It was a completely different time. I look back at the broadcast even and I’m like man, ‘I feel like it’s the 80s.’ You know what I mean? It’s really not that old, it’s only 10 years ago, but just the technology of where we’ve come and the cars and the competitors. It has changed a lot.”

A decade later Allgaier is the tenured veteran with 287 Xfinity starts and 10 wins, as well as 76 Cup starts.

“To go from there, nowadays if you’re 23, 24 you’re considered on the older side of even the young guys who are coming up,” Allgaier said. “I think that plays a lot into it for me. … I feel like I’m in the best place I’ve ever been as far as talent and experience and just knowing what I need to do. I can’t complain about my age.”

Actually, he does have one complaint.

“I wish growing up (I had) some of the programs and simulators and training programs these kids have,” Allgaier said. “We have one right now with the Drivers Edge (Development) program at JR Motorsports. I look back on when I was the age of a lot of these kids that are part of that program …  I wish those were available because I feel like the learning curve, what’s taken me 10 years in my career to kind of learn, some of these guys are going to get that same amount of experience in two, three, four years. That’s probably the only thing, but on the flip side, I’ve been blessed with a long career, man. If it ended tomorrow I wouldn’t hold my head over it.”

Ahead of Saturday’s race at Chicagoland Speedway (3:30 p.m. ET on NBCSN), Allgaier sees his No. 7 team fourth in the standings to the series’ Big 3 of Tyler Reddick (three wins), Bell (four) and Cole Custer (three).

Allgaier remains winless through 14 races, not too far off of his 2018 record when he won his first race in June at Iowa.

But Allgaier is aware his team is playing catchup and they have been since his Indianapolis win since last July, his last trip to Victory Lane.

“Let’s be honest, from Indy last year until this point right now, it’s been pretty lackluster,” Allgaier said. “For us it’s just finding that little bit of raw speed. That’s hard because we’re not really sure is that aerodynamics, is that suspension, is that engine, is that driving style?

“There’s so many variables … that can alter how fast a car goes and for us we don’t feel like there’s one area we’re getting absolutely beat in. A lot of it is trial and error.

“That’s where I think our team really excels. I’m not doubting that we’ll get there, it’s just finding that sweet spot of where we need to be to make sure we do it right.”

Their improvement has been noticeable. Entering Chicagoland, Allgaier has five top fives in the last eight races. He was in contention at Pocono before he spun on a late restart and finished 11th.

An Illinois native, Allgaier sees Chicagoland – where he has two wins – as a prime place for his turnaround to come to fruition. Even though Allgaier doesn’t view 1.5-mile tracks as a strength, he’s had finishes of third (Atlanta) and second (Charlotte) this year. He also had finishes of 31st (Las Vegas, engine) and 13 (Texas).

“The thing that I love about Chicagoland, you’re able to move around a lot,” Allgaier said. “For being a dirt racer growing up, being able to move around is a big deal. So that helps me tremendously. Then it’s worn out, it’s old, it’s usually really hot, which makes it so much fun.”

And as the “old guy” with a decade of experience, the heat doesn’t quite get to Allgaier, who thinks his best racing comes out in the summer.

“‘A lot of these young guys that necessarily haven’t been in these races where it’s been super hot like this it definitely tests their endurance for sure,” Allgaier said. “For me being around a little while and being lucky enough to deal with some hot days before I feel like this is one of those areas that really kind of makes it fun for me and uses my strengths versus some of my weaknesses.”

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NBC Sports Power Rankings special edition: Xfinity, Truck drivers

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With the NASCAR Cup Series off last weekend, attention was focused on the Xfinity Series and Gander Outdoors Truck Series at Iowa Speedway.

With that in mind, we’re changing gears for this week’s NBC Sports’ NASCAR Power Rankings. Our staff of writers are ranking the top Xfinity and Trucks series drivers.

Here’s how this week’s Power Rankings shape up:

1. Tyler Reddick (39 points) – He has one less win now than Christopher Bell, but his overall consistency with three more top fives – including 10 in a row – put Reddick over the top.

2. Christopher Bell (36 points) – Well ahead of his 2018 pace with four wins to one, but when he’s not winning he seems to struggle. He has two DNFs among five finishes of 13th or worse. 

3. Cole Custer (32 points) – The second most improved Xfinity driver from last year. He also trails Bell by one win but he’s tied with him with eight top fives and one other top 10.

4. Ross Chastain (29 points) – What he’s done in both Xfinity and Truck with the equipment he’s in has been impressive.

5. Brett Moffitt (22 points) – Benefitted from Ross Chastain’s truck failing inspection and got the win at Iowa (pending the appeal by Chastain’s team Wednesday). Reigning series champ looks to win back-to-back titles with two different teams (just like what Reddick is looking to do).

6. Justin Allgaier (21 points) – Seems to be finding his groove after some early struggles. Has four top-five finishes in the last five races.

7. Grant Enfinger (16 points) – Points leader in the Truck Series and has not finished worse than 11th this season. His fourth-place finish at Iowa was the fourth time he’s placed fourth in the last six races … but he’s still searching for his first win of 2019.

8. Chase Briscoe (11 points) – Has 11 top-10 finishes in last 12 races. That includes six top fives during that stretch, including a best result of third at Pocono (has also finished worse than eighth just once in the same period).

9. Matt Crafton (8 points) – Has identical record to Enfinger (zero wins, six top 5 and nine top 10 finishes each). Major difference is Crafton has led only 22 of 1,640 laps, while Enfinger has led 110 laps.

10. Austin Cindric (5 points) – His 10th-place finish at Iowa was his ninth top 10 in the past 11 Xfinity races. Is showing continued marked improvement in his second full season in the series.

Others Receiving Votes: Michael Annett (3 points), Greg Biffle (1 point).