Ross Chastain

Brandon Jones passes Kyle Busch to take Xfinity win at Phoenix

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Brandon Jones passed Kyle Busch with 20 laps to go and held on to win Saturday’s NASCAR Xfinity Series race at Phoenix Raceway.

It was Jones’ second career win in 141 Xfinity starts. His previous win came last October at Kansas.

Busch started from the pole and sought his 12th career Xfinity win at Phoenix. It appeared that he was headed toward that goal, leading a race-high 78 laps, but trailed off in the final 20 laps.

Not only did Jones pass him for the lead, last week’s winner at Fontana, Harrison Burton, also got past Busch and finished runner-up Saturday.

Still, it was some consolation that each of the top three drivers were Toyota drivers for Joe Gibbs Racing.

Brad Keselowski finished fourth, followed by Justin Haley, Chase Briscoe, Noah Gragson, Austin Cindric, Ross Chastain and Riley Herbst.

STAGE 1 WINNER: Justin Allgaier

STAGE 2 WINNER: Noah Gragson

RESULTS

DRIVER STANDINGS

WHO HAD A GOOD RACE: Harrison Burton is on a roll. After winning last week at Fontana, he roared back for a runner-up finish in Saturday’s race. He has scored a top-five finish in each of the season’s first four races. Burton also is atop the Xfinity driver standings after Saturday’s race.

WHO HAD A BAD RACE: Joe Nemechek had a scary moment with 72 laps to go when his brakes went out, causing Nemechek to hit the wall and sustain moderate damage to the right side of his car. Nemechek finished 32nd. … NASCAR met with Dillon Bassett, Brandon Brown and their crew chiefs for an altercation on pit road after the race. Bassett went to Brown’s car and reached into the car on pit road. The two had made contact on Lap 137 of the 200-lap race.

NOTABLE: This was the 500th win on the NASCAR national level for Toyota.

WHAT’S NEXT: EchoPark 250, Saturday March 14 at 4 p.m. ET, at Atlanta Motor Speedway.

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Practice holds for Phoenix Raceway

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NASCAR announced its practice holds for the Cup and Xfinity Series today at Phoenix Raceway. Each series will hold two practice sessions.

Cup Series

Martin Truex Jr. is being docked 30 minutes in final practice for failing pre-qualifying inspection three times at Auto Club Speedway.

Kurt Busch will miss 15 minutes of final practice for failing pre-qualifying inspection at Auto Club Speedway.

JJ Yeley will miss 15 minutes of final practice for being to late inspection last week.

Xfinity Series

Nine Xfinity teams will be docked practice time today.

David Starr will miss 30 minutes of first practice for failing inspection twice.

Ross Chastain, Colby Howard and Jeff Green will miss 15 minutes of first practice for failing inspection twice.

Justin Allgaier, Ryan Sieg, Kody Vanderwal, Timmy Hill and Dillon Bassett will miss 15 minutes of first practice for being late to inspection.

Ross Chastain says his finish ‘unacceptable’ in place of Newman

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He scored a 10th-place finish in the first stage and ran as high as fifth Sunday in a car he never raced before.

Ross Chastain still had a harsh evaluation of his 27th-place finish at Las Vegas Motor Speedway in the No. 6 Ford, which he drove in place of an injured Ryan Newman.

Chastain finished two laps down after causing the final caution on a Lap 262 spin, which he judged “unacceptable,” along with his restart performance (“guys kind of ate me alive”) as a substitute for Roush Fenway Racing.

“It’s hard to get out of the car after you have a top-10 car, and you go and run into people and pick the wrong lanes on restarts and then spin it out at the end,” Chastain said. “That’s pretty silly. Just a lot of mistakes on my end and then at the end just overdriving and for one position to be the first car a lap down. That’s unacceptable.”

Chastain had an average running position of 16.87 over the 400-mile race, which went south after he pitted under green from 15th on Lap 217 of 267. The yellow flag flew five laps later, and Chastain took a wavearound to restart 21st.

(Photo by Will Lester/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

On the restart, he made contact with Kurt Busch and pitted under green to fix a tire rub, which left him a lap down when he spun with five laps remaining.

“There were a lot of small mistakes on my end, but I learned a ton,” he said. “The car deserved a lot better finish.  Obviously, we showed that early and I just didn’t have great restarts. I just have to be better.

“RFR and everybody puts so much into these cars, and ultimately I’m the one holding the wheel.  We had such a good first stage and had so much confidence and from there I just started making mistakes.”

Chastain, who finished 10th in Sunday night’s rain-delayed Xfinity race, will be driving the No. 6 for Roush while Newman recovers from his Daytona 500 crash. In a statement from the team Sunday morning, Newman indicated he plans to drive again this season, but no timetable has been provided for his return.

Ross Chastain fastest in lone Xfinity practice at Las Vegas

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Ross Chastain was fastest in the only Xfinity Series practice session of the weekend Friday at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.

Chastain covered the 1.5-mile oval with a speed of 176.881 mph, best of the 33 cars that took to the track.

Chastain is entered in all three races this weekend: he competed in Friday night’s Truck race, will be in Saturday’s Xfinity race and will replace the injured Ryan Newman in Sunday’s Pennzoil 400 NASCAR Cup race.

Second through fifth fastest were Brandon Brown (176.719 mph), Chase Briscoe (176.673), Brandon Jones (176.650) and Justin Allgaier (176.206).

Sixth through 10th were Austin Cindric (176.154 mph), Daytona winner Noah Gragson (176.028), Daniel Hemric (175.970), Justin Haley (175.547) and Harrison Burton (175.296).

There was one incident of note in the 81-minute and only Xfinity practice session of the weekend.

Myatt Snider got loose about 35 minutes into the session. While he stayed off the wall, he tore up a good chunk of infield grass, causing significant body and suspension damage.

Snider took his car to the garage and moved into his back-up ride.

Saturday will see Xfinity qualifying early in the afternoon, followed a few hours later by the Boyd Gaming 300 race.

Xfinity practice results

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Xfinity Series drivers to watch in 2020

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In case you’re just tuning in, last year NASCAR’s Xfinity Series was dominated by a group of drivers called the “Big 3” — two-time champion Tyler Reddick, Christopher Bell and Cole Custer.

In 2019, they combined to win 21 of the season’s 33 races. Together over the last three seasons they won 34 of 99 Xfinity races.

Now they’re gone, having been promoted to the Cup Series to be part of one of the most impressive rookie classes in recent memory.

Who is left to fill the void?

There’s no clear favorite for the Xfinity title in 2020. But here are six drivers to watch in the scramble for the championship, which starts today with the season-opening race at Daytona International Speedway (2:30 p.m. ET on FS1).

 

Justin Allgaier
2020 team: JR Motorsports (fifth season with team/ninth full-time Xfinity season)
Number of Xfinity starts: 306 starts since 2008
Career Xfinity wins: 11
What’s ahead: While only 33, Allgaier is the Xfinity Series’ “grizzled veteran” (beating out teammate Michael Annett by 17 days). The JR Motorsports driver is coming off a “terrible” and “miserable” year where he only won once, in the final playoff elimination race at Phoenix. That ended a 39-race winless streak and put him in the Championship 4 for the third time in four years. But Allgaier has yet to win a championship since he returned to the Xfinity level in 2016. With the departure of the “Big 3” Allgaier has a chance to re-establish the dominance of JR Motorsports and himself after the team earned two wins last year, its fewest since 2012.

 

Austin Cindric
2020 team: Team Penske (second full year with team/third full-time Xfinity season)
Number of Xfinity starts: 67
Career Xfinity wins: 2
What’s ahead: The 21-year-old Cindric had the distinction of being the only non-“Big 3” Xfinity regular to win more than one race in 2019. Both his wins came on road courses – Watkins Glen and Mid-Ohio. Entering his third full-time Xfinity season, Cindric will try to establish himself as a threat on ovals. Ten of his 14 top fives last year came on ovals, with a best finish of second in both Richmond races.

 

Chase Briscoe
2020 team: Stewart-Haas Racing (second full-time season with team/in Xfinity)
Number of Xfinity starts: 50 starts since 2018
Career Xfinity wins: 2
What’s ahead: Briscoe will now be the sole Stewart-Haas Racing driver in Xfinity after the departure of Custer to the Cup Series. Entering his fifth full-time year of racing on pavement, the Ford development driver can no longer cite his transition from dirt racing as negative factor in his development as a NASCAR driver. Including his one win at Iowa Speedway, Briscoe earned 14 top fives in 2019, including a runner-up finish in the Bristol night race.

 

Michael Annett
2020 team: JR Motorsports (fifth year with team/eighth full-time Xfinity season)
Number of Xfinity starts: 262 starts since 2008
Career Xfinity wins: 1
What’s ahead: The 33-year-old Annett is coming off his best season in NASCAR yet, having earned the first win of his Xfinity career in the season-opener at Daytona, tying his career-high for top fives (six) and earning a career-best 19 top 10s. He enters his second full season working with crew chief Travis Mack.

 

Ross Chastain
2020 team: Kaulig Racing (first full-time season with team/fifth full Xfinity season)
Number of Xfinity starts: 158 starts since 2014
Career Xfinity wins: 2
What’s ahead: After a busy 2019 that saw him compete in 77 races across all three national series, Chastain is back for a full-time season in Xfinity after he went for the Truck Series title with Niece Motorsports and made the Championship 4. Chastain will be teammates with Justin Haley as Kaulig Racing fields two full-time cars for the first time. This is easily the best full-time ride Chastain has had in Xfinity and keeping up his momentum from 2019 will be key.

 

Brandon Jones
2020 team: Joe Gibbs Racing (third year with team/fifth full-time Xfinity season)
Number of Xfinity starts: 137 starts since 2015
Career Xfinity wins: 1
What’s ahead: Jones is now the top dog at Joe Gibbs Racing after the departure of Bell. Jones will attempt build on last year, where he finally broke through for his first Xfinity Series win in the playoff race at Kansas Speedway. Joining Jones at JGR are rookie drivers Harrison Burton and Riley Herbst.