Ryan Sieg

Xfinity results, points after Dover playoff elimination round

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With his win in Saturday’s final race of the first round of the Xfinity Series playoffs at Dover International Speedway, Cole Custer joins Christopher Bell as the only drivers to earn seven wins in the circuit this season.

What a way for Custer to head into the second round of the playoffs, which begin in two weeks at Kansas Speedway (the Xfinity Series enjoys next weekend off).

Custer led twice for 31 laps in the 200-lap event. Chase Briscoe, who won the pole but had to start the race from the back of the field for unapproved adjustments, rallied back to lead a race-high 71 laps before an engine misfire – which cropped up during qualifying – returned late in the race, relegating Briscoe to a still strong fifth-place finish.

In-between Custer and Briscoe in the top five finishing spots were Justin Allgaier, Austin Cindric and Justin Haley.

The eight drivers that advanced to the second round of the Xfinity playoffs were Custer, Bell, Allgaier, Briscoe, Cindric, Tyler Reddick, Noah Gragson and Michael Annett. Failing to advance to Round 2 were Brandon Jones, John Hunter Nemechek, Justin Haley and Ryan Sieg.

Click here for the results.

Here are the points immediately after the race:

Click here for the points.

Here are the points after the reseeding for the second round. Christopher Bell leads.

Click here for reseeded points heading into the second round

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Primer for first Xfinity playoff elimination race

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The title hopes for four Xfinity Series drivers will come to an end this weekend when the playoff field is trimmed to eight after Saturday’s elimination race at Dover International Speedway (3 p.m. ET on NBCSN).

Here’s a breakdown of the situation each playoff competitor finds himself in heading into the Monster Mile:

He’s safe!

Two drivers have secured spots in the second round. Christopher Bell advanced by winning the playoff opener at Richmond Raceway. Cole Custer has put himself in the second round based on points.

The two drivers lead the series in wins, with Bell claiming seven (tying his 2018 mark) and Custer winning six times.

Bell has won the last two Xfinity races at Dover.

Almost There …

Tyler Reddick, the third member of the “Big 3” this year, is all but assured a spot in the second round if nothing unexpected happens Saturday. He finished third at Dover in the spring.

Austin Cindric, the only Xfinity regular outside the “Big 3” to win multiple races this year (two), is also essentially assured a spot in round two. He finished sixth at Dover in the spring.

Not Completely Safe

The next batch of drivers aren’t necessarily in trouble, but one accident in the first stage and an unexpected DNF could spell trouble.

Justin Allgaier in fifth is the highest driver in the standings who hasn’t won this year. He’s 40 points up on the cutline and has 12 playoff points. He finished second at Dover in the spring and won the spring race in 2018.

Chase Briscoe trails Allgaier in the standings in sixth. He’s 35 points up (and has 13 playoff points) on the cutline after a stage win and a ninth-place finish at the Roval. He finished fifth at Dover in the spring.

Noah Gragson is seventh in the standings, 26 points above the cutline. He had a top five on the Roval and enters this weekend’s race with six straight top 10s. He finished 19th at Dover in the spring after experiencing a loose wheel.

Feeling the Heat

The last five drivers in the standings need some help to make it to the second round or they have to win.

Michael Annett is on the bubble and 11 points to the good. Annett is the lowest driver in the standings with a win. He has nine playoff points. Annett finished 10th in the spring Dover race.

That leaves the four drivers who find themselves outside the cutoff line.

John Hunter Nemechek and Brandon Jones each trail Annett by 11 points. Nemechek has no race or stage wins this year and has just two top 10s in the last six races. He’s finished in the top 10 in the last two Dover races.

Jones has no race victories, but has three stage wins and four playoff points. He has top 10s in the last three Dover races, but has the worst career average finish at Dover among the playoff drivers (19th).

Not much has gone well for Ryan Sieg (-37 points) and Justin Haley (-39) in the playoffs. After finishing outside the top 10 at Richmond, mechanical problems resulted in brief trips to the garage for both drivers at the Roval as they finished well off the pace.

Neither driver has won a Xfinity Series race, but that’s what they will need to do Saturday to continue their playoff hopes.

Sieg’s 11th-place finish in the spring was his best Dover result in 11 starts. Haley placed 17th in his first career Dover start.

Here are the playoff standings heading into Dover:

Results, Xfinity point standings after Richmond playoff race

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Christopher Bell led a career best 238 laps Friday night on his way to winning the Xfinity playoff opener at Richmond Raceway.

It is his seventh win of the year, matching his total from 2018.

The top five was completed by Austin Cindric, Cole Custer, Justin Allgaier and Chase Briscoe.

Click here for the race results.

Playoff standings

Bell secured a spot in the second round of the playoffs with his win.

The four drivers currently below the cutline for advancing to the next round are Brandon Jones (-15 points from cutline), Ryan Sieg (-19), Justin Haley (-20) and John Hunter Nemechek (-21).

Click here for the point standings.

Richmond Xfinity practice report

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RICHMOND, Va. – Gray Gaulding posted the fastest lap in Friday morning’s Xfinity practice at Richmond Raceway.

Gaulding topped the field with a lap of 121.397 mph. He was followed by Cole Custer (121.342 mph), Christopher Bell (121.000), Noah Gragson (120.621) and Harrison Burton (120.128).

“It feels good for the little guys to beat the big guys,” Gaulding told NBCSN at the end of the session.

Click here for practice results

Burton had the best average over 10 consecutive laps at 118.644 mph. He was followed by Michael Annett (118.041 mph), Austin Cindric (117.897), Ryan Sieg (117.314) and Justin Allgaier (116.279).

Joe Graf Jr., driving the No. 21 for Richard Childress Racing, ran the most laps in the 80-minute session with 106 laps. He was 29th on the speed chart with a top lap of 116.109 mph.

Qualifying will be at 4:35 p.m. ET on NBCSN. The series races at 7:30 p.m. ET today on NBCSN. This is the series’ playoff opener.

Ryan Sieg, Shane Wilson ready for opportunity races in Xfinity playoffs

Ryan Sieg Racing
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When Shane Wilson answered his phone Tuesday he was in the process of leaving a UPS store, a weekly destination that’s part of his many crew chief duties at Ryan Sieg Racing.

This week the team had to: prepare three cars for Friday’s Xfinity Series race at Richmond – including a car for Hermie Sadler, who is making his first Xfinity start since 2016 and the first ever for RSR, as well as repair a wrecked No. 93 car from Las Vegas and get Ryan Sieg’s No. 39 Chevrolet ready for a playoff run.

“Shoooo, we’re busy,” Wilson tells NBC Sports. “But, you know, good busy.”

That’s all been done with seven crew members at the team’s shop located just outside of Atlanta.

“We can go with seven-and-a-half to make sure I don’t leave anybody out,” jokes Wilson.

At the UPS store he had mailed a shock destined for Vermont. Its recipient would be Steve Hibberd, the team’s shock guy.

Hibberd is a former employee of Orleans Racing, the Truck Series effort for Brendan Gaughan in the early 2000s that Wilson led. He’s one of Wilson’s two “secret weapons.”

The other is another Orleans team member and former Dodge employee, Ryan Isabel, who provides engineering support for the team in identifying trends via a database of car setups.

This small, spread out operation helped Sieg produce the best season in his six years of full-time Xfinity competition and his second playoff berth, following his 2016 campaign.

He enters Richmond with two top fives and nine top 10s (matching his top 10s from the rest of his Xfinity career). His previous best total for top 10s was three in 2016, the first time he went to the playoffs.

But Wilson, a former long-time employee at Richard Childress Racing who crew chiefed for Kevin Harvick and Clint Bowyer, doesn’t seem too stressed about the playoffs before him or his limited resources. In fact, he’s having his most fun in NASCAR in “a long time.”

For a former electrician apprentice from Vermont, he could be doing worse.

“Whenever I have a bad day in racing I think about running pipe in December in Vermont along the Connecticut River,” Wilson says with a chuckle.

Ryan Sieg has made the Xfinity playoffs for the second time in his career. (Photo by Adam Lacy/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

Sieg and Wilson don’t want to hype up a potential Cinderella story for the Xfinity Series playoffs, even if it does have a few ingredients for that.

Sieg and his small team will start their playoff run at the track he had his best non-superspeedway performance earlier this year.

The April 12th race at Richmond saw Sieg start 13th, finish Stage 2 in fifth and then finish the race in fifth for his second top five of the year.

That leads into the Sept. 28 race on the Charlotte Roval. The opening round then closes out at Dover International Speedway.

Wilson sees the first round as three “opportunity races.”

“They’re not cookie cutter mile-and-a-halves, like Vegas,” Wilson says. “I really feel like we can go there and do well.

“I like road racing, Ryan doesn’t necessarily like road racing. I’m trying to get him in the state of mind and that’s a good opportunity race.”

But….

There are a few of those.

They make Wilson a “realist” about their situation, especially when it comes to facing the juggernauts of Joe Gibbs Racing, Team Penske and the other Cup-affiliated teams.

First, there’s the cars.

Those Cup-affiliated teams will likely be bringing new or updated cars to the track as the playoffs open.

Meanwhile, Sieg’s team will be using the same three cars they’ve been rotating through all year. Luckily for Wilson, they’re relatively new chassis the team purchased from Richard Childress Racing before this season, so he’s familiar with them.

“Here we will be running the same cars as we have been because that’s what we have,” Wilson says. “But I don’t think I’d ever switch that anyway, you gotta kind of ride the horse that got you there and try not to out trick yourself or race something that’s a little bit better cause you really need to bring something you know and that you’ve raced all year then see where you land.”

Then there’s the playoff points.

Sieg enters Richmond 11th in the standings with 2,001 points after the standings were reset. That one playoff point is a result of Sieg winning Stage 2 at Texas Motor Speedway in March.

“Looking at it, those top three cars (Christopher Bell, Cole Custer and Tyler Reddick) have such a big advantage, you almost have to pencil them into Homestead,” Sieg says. “To make it through the first (round), that’s what we want to do and need to do. But if we don’t, be consistent over the seven races and get top 10 in points, I think we got eliminated in the first round in 2016, but we still finished ninth in the standings. So it’s always nice to be top 10 in points. … Anything can happen.”

However, with all that, there’s one additional tool in the No. 39 team’s utility belt they didn’t have in April.

They return to Richmond with a Cup pit crew, which they began using in May at Charlotte.

Why is that notable?

Shane Wilson, right, has been a NASCAR crew chief since the early 2000s in Truck Series. (Photo by Chris Trotman/Getty Images)

“We lost I think 30 spots on pit road that first race and still finished top five,” Sieg says.

Well, maybe it felt like 30.

“It wasn’t quite 30, but it was like 17 though,” Wilson says with a hearty laugh. “Which is still a lot.”

Even with a more experienced pit crew, Sieg’s philosophy on what happens on pit road has been drilled into him.

“We don’t want to gain spots on pit road, we don’t want to lose any either,” Sieg says. “We just want to maintain. I bet you in my career if you counted the number of times I’ve come off pit road I’ve probably lost more positions than I want to count. That’s part of being a small team. If we come in eighth and Brandon Jones is ninth, he’s got a Joe Gibbs pit crew. If they beat us by two seconds, you’re going to lose that spot. I’ve kind of dealt with that a lot in my career. I’m not complaining, cause it’s part of what it is. So I just want to come in 10th and go out 10th. Yeah, it would be great to come out fourth, but that’s less realistic.”

And what if that Cup pit crew had been in place at Richmond six months ago?

“We might of won,” Wilson says. “Or we would have finished second. Because we passed two guys who finished in front of us about three different times. The only one we never passed was (winner Cole Custer).”

While advancing to the next round would be huge for Sieg’s team, Wilson’s goal for the next three races is straightforward: “finish ahead of four of those guys every week” and “accumulate enough points to make them have to race us at Dover.”