Jeremy Clements

Friday 5: Xfinity driver’s quest for success goes one call at a time

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“Hey, my name is Brandon. What do you think of NASCAR?”

That’s not how Xfinity Series driver Brandon Brown starts every phone call looking for sponsorship, but sometimes it’s not too far off.

While other drivers watch film, run laps on iRacing, work out or fulfill sponsor obligations during the week, Brown often is on the phone looking for sponsorship for his family’s team.

That’s life in the middle of the field in the Xfinity Series where the chassis are older, sponsorships harder to find, pit crew members interchangeable and results are overshadowed by the dominance of Tyler Reddick, Christopher Bell and Cole Custer.

Through it all — and that includes Brown moving from his family’s primary car to another ride twice because someone else brought sponsorship money — Brown is 14th in points heading into Sunday’s Xfinity race at Iowa Speedway.

He is 97 points out of the final playoff spot, held by Joe Gibbs Racing’s Brandon Jones. While the playoffs would be quite an accomplishment, it will be difficult for a team such as Brown’s to top many of the better-funded organizations ahead.

Even so, Brown is reaching one of his goals for the season.

Brandon Brown (right) races Jeremy Clements (51), Justin Haley (11) and Jeffrey Earnhardt (18) at Charlotte last month. (Photo by Brian Lawdermilk/Getty Images)

“Our focus this year was to crack the top 15,” he told NBC Sports. “Getting a top-10 finish would be great. I don’t want it to be because the leaders wrecked. Superspeedways, we can count them if we want, but that’s like a crapshoot. We want to earn a top 10 this year.”

He hasn’t gotten there yet. Brown finished a career-best 13th this season at Atlanta, Dover and Pocono.

It’s not easy to get into the top 10 with a fleet of older chassis that includes those once driven by John Wes Townley at Athenian Motorsports. Brown said the team also added some Richard Childress Racing chassis when RCR downsized its program.

There have been other changes throughout the season. Brown has had seven different pit crew combinations in the first 13 races because not everyone they’ve used is always available. With tenths of a second often the difference between gaining or losing spots on pit road, the less a crew and driver are familiar with each other, the longer it can take to complete stops.

“When you’re switching to new guys, I don’t think they know what to expect (from the driver) until after the first stop,” he said.

Brown’s biggest challenge, though, is money, especially for a team with fewer than a dozen full-time employees. Even Brown has a dual role. The team’s website lists him as marketing director/driver.

That means the 25-year-old makes a lot of phone calls.

“The goal is obviously to search for any company that has expressed any interest in motorsports at all, whether it is circle track racing, road course racing, dirt bike, whatever,” Brown told NBC Sports. “Also, it kind of comes down to who do we know, who do any friends and family know, try to make some sort of a connection so that it’s not a complete cold (call), ‘Hey my name is Brandon, what do you think of NASCAR?’

“It’s going through everybody’s rolodex in the shop because a lot of the guys come from different areas, try to pull from each one of them.”

For every phone call that provides hope, there are many more rejections or calls that aren’t returned.

Brandon Brown has finished in the top 20 in 11 of the season’s first 13 Xfinity races. (Photo by Sean Gardner/Getty Images)

“It’s definitely tedious,” said Brown, who graduated from Coastal Carolina University in December. “It’s not the most fun at all. I understand that each and every team in the garage in some shape or form has gone through something similar. I just kind of throw it up to growing pains and just kind of look forward to … a day where I can just go to the track and come home and just focus on watching film or doing a simulator.”

Until then, he’ll keep looking for money for Brandonbilt Motorsports, which is running its first full-time season in NASCAR.

Brown ran the season’s first seven Xfinity races without a primary sponsor. He has had a sponsor in five of the past six races. Vero True Social is back as a sponsor this weekend at Iowa after it served in that role at Charlotte and Michigan.

“It all comes down to the dollar that keeps the race team alive,”  Brown said.

He will remain in the No. 86 for the foreseeable future since no one has purchased any more races at this time.

Even with all the challenges, Brown has made gains. His season-worst 26th-place finish last weekend at Michigan ended a streak of five consecutive top-20 finishes. Despite not having sponsorship early in the season, he opened with six top 20s in a row.

“We want to peg up the ladder,” Brown said. “We understand as a team where we are in comparison to the rest of the garage.”

That doesn’t mean he’s satisfied with staying there. So he keeps calling, searching for the money that will help this team climb higher.

2. Familiar foes

Tyler Reddick, Christopher Bell and Cole Custer have combined to win each of the last seven Xfinity races heading into Iowa Speedway this weekend.

Reddick has three wins during that stretch, while Bell and Custer each have two wins.

Reddick notes how competition between helps make each better.

“Every single week and every single lap I feel like, if say I’m leading and they’re catching me, I push harder, if I’m catching them, they push harder,” Reddick told NBC Sports of Bell and Custer. “Most people I’m able to run down and catch and make something happen, but those two are definitely the hardest to pass. They work the hardest to keep you behind them. It’s a lot of fun battling with them.”

3. Wanting to scream!

Chase Cabre did just that after winning his first K&N Pro Series East race June 2 at Memphis International Raceway. The win came in his 33rd career series start.

Chase Cabre celebrating his NASCAR K&N Pro Series East win June 2. (Photo: Nigel Kinrade/NKP, NASCAR)

Cabre, in his third season in the series, had three runner-up finishes, including two this year, before the win.

OK, so once the celebration in victory lane is done, the car passes inspection, and it’s time to leave, then what?

Cabre drove back to the Charlotte area with his mom and brother but first they stopped for dinner at a Red Robin restaurant.

“It’s funny how the emotions change so fast,” Cabre told NBC Sports. “You get out, you’re screaming and the next thing you know you want everybody to realize I won. (At the restaurant), nobody here knows you won.

“They have no clue. ‘What are you so excited about?’ “

If only they knew.

4. Truck debut

Sixteen-year-old Chandler Smith makes his Gander Outdoors Truck Series debut this weekend at Iowa Speedway. He’ll be in the No. 51 for Kyle Busch Motorsports. The Toyota development driver has three ARCA wins and six poles in 13 starts. His most recent ARCA victory was May 19 at Toledo (Ohio) Speedway.

Smith also is scheduled to drive for KBM on June 28 at World Wide Technology Raceway at Gateway, Aug. 15 at Bristol Motor Speedway and Nov. 7 at ISM Raceway. He will drive the KBM Super Late Model Oct. 13 at the Winchester (Speedway) 400, Nov. 3 in the All-American 400 at Nashville Fairgrounds Speedway and Dec. 2 in the Snowball Derby.

5. Chastain’s chase

In his first Truck series race since declaring for Truck points, Ross Chastain scored 38 points for his 10th-place finish last week at Texas Motor Speedway.

He must be in the top 20 in points to be eligible for a playoff spot should he win. His Kansas victory does not count toward playoff eligibility because he had not declared for Truck points at the time.

Chastain enters this weekend 64 points out of 20th place in the season standings. Anthony Alfredo is 20th with 102 points.

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Four Cup teams, eight Xfinity teams docked practice at Dover

Photo by Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images
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Four Cup teams, including Kurt Busch‘s team, will lose 15 minutes of practice Friday at Dover for inspection issues at Talladega. Eight Xfinity teams will lose 15 minutes of practice Friday at Dover for previous inspection issues.

In Cup, Busch’s team is being penalized for multiple inspection failures at Talladega. The teams of Ross Chastain, Chris Buescher and Cody Ware each will lose 15 minutes of practice for being late to inspection at Talladega.

Cup practice is from 11:05 – 11:55 a.m. ET Friday.

In the Xfinity Series, the teams of BJ McLeod, Joey Gase, Josh Williams, Jeremy Clements, Ronnie Bassett Jr., and Tommy Joe Martins each will lose 15 minutes of practice for being late to inspection previously.

The teams of Riley Herbst and Ryan Sieg will lose 15 minutes of practice for multiple inspection failures at Talladega.

All the Xfinity penalties will be served during the first practice for that series from 12:05 – 12:55 p.m. ET Friday.

Xfinity practice report from Fontana

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Justin Allgaier wrapped up the second and final Xfinity Series practice session Friday at Auto Club Speedway with the top speed (178.059 mph).

Tyler Reddick was second fastest (177.139), followed by Christopher Bell (176.956), Kyle Busch (176.670) and Noah Gragson (176.432).

Sixth through 10th were Ryan Preece (176.280), Cole Custer (176.061), Chase Briscoe (175.794), John Hunter Nemechek (175.640) and Brandon Jones (175.200).

A total of 34 drivers took to the track in the session.

Qualifying will take place Saturday at 1:10 p.m. ET.

A few hours later, the Production Alliance Group 300 race (150 laps/300 miles) will take the green flag at 5 p.m. ET (Fox Sports 1, Motor Racing Network, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio).

Click here for the full second practice speed chart.

FIRST PRACTICE:

Cole Custer was fastest in the first of two Xfinity Series practices Friday at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, California.

The Stewart Haas Racing driver roared around the 2-mile high speed oval in his Ford Mustang at 177.039 mph, the only driver to exceed 177 mph.

Christopher Bell was second fastest (176.882 mph), followed by the man who is getting the most attention this weekend, Kyle Busch (176.350 mph), who is seeking to become only the second driver in NASCAR history to reach 200 wins in a career.

Busch comes into this weekend with 199 career NASCAR wins: 52 in Cup, 53 in Trucks and 94 in Xfinity. He can reach 200 with a win in Saturday’s Xfinity race or in Sunday’s Cup event.

Tyler Reddick was fourth fastest in the session (175.970 mph), leading a surge of five Chevy drivers in a row, followed by Justin Allgaier in fifth (175.833), Noah Gragson (175.653), Jeremy Clements (174.834) and John Hunter Nemechek (174.478).

Rounding out the top 10 were Austin Cindric (174.338 mph) and Ryan Preece (174.350).

The final Xfinity practice will take place later this afternoon from 4:35 to 5:25 p.m. ET.

Click here for the full Xfinity practice speed chart.

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Justin Haley, Chase Briscoe fastest in Xfinity practices at Daytona

Justin Haley was fastest in the 2nd Xfinity practice Friday. Photo: Getty Images
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Justin Haley (189.581 mph) was fastest in the second and final Xfinity Series practice Friday afternoon at Daytona International Speedway.

Noah Gragson was second-fastest (188.743 mph), followed by Ryan Sieg (188.292), David Starr (187.141) and Jeremy Clements (186.761).

Chase Briscoe, who was fastest in the first session, was ninth-fastest (186.637 mph) in the second practice.

Only 22 drivers took part in the second session.

Click here for full results of the second practice.

In the first Xfinity practice earlier in the afternoon, Briscoe turned in the fastest speed (196.455 mph), followed by defending Daytona Xfinity race winner Tyler Reddick (196.344 mph), John Hunter Nemechek (196.202), Ross Chastain (196.002) and Haley (195.135).

Click here for full results of the first practice.

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Xfinity practice report at Road America

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FINAL PRACTICE

Justin Marks posted the fastest lap in final practice for the Johnsonville 180 at Road America with a speed of 109.603 mph.

He beat James Davison (109.179 mph) by more than half a second (.517).

Austin Cindric (109.147), Justin Allgaier (109.070) and Matt Tifft (108.884) rounded out the top five.

Making his return to NASCAR, Hall of Famer Bill Elliott (105.791) posted the 26th fastest time.

Last year’s winner, Jeremy Clements had a left front tire go flat in turn five 20 minutes into final practice and brought out a red flag.

Kaz Grala and Brian Henderson had off-course excursions in Canada Corner.

After driving off course in the rain in practice one, Tyler Reddick spun with Katherine Legge in Turn 5 with 50 minutes remaining in the session. Both drivers returned to the pits under their own power. Reddick had damage on the right front; Legge had damage on the left rear.

Legge (106.524) ended the session 23rd on the chart.

Click here for complete results

FIRST PRACTICE

Wet conditions kept most of the competitors off track in the first practice session.

Rookies Reddick and Conor Daly were the only two drivers to take to the track.

Reddick made several laps practicing his entry onto pit road. Only one circuit was completed at speed (152.280).

Midway through the session, Reddick had an off-course excursion.

“Got a little wheel hop in the brakes and as soon as I tried to go down into the next gear, it went into neutral and didn’t catch third,” Reddick said on the NBCSN Sports App. “At that point, just hoping that when I hit the sand pit it wouldn’t do too bad a damage, but unfortunately it tore the splitter up pretty bad. “