The NASCAR Xfinity Series continues to be the Chase Briscoe Invitational … a theme that will continue through the championship race next month at Phoenix Raceway in Arizona.
For the three contenders that join him, the stats will no longer matter, and it will simply be a matter of finishing ahead of the other three.
Briscoe led 159 of 200 laps to win for the ninth time in Xfinity Series competition on Saturday night at Kansas Speedway, while the other seven challengers in the Round of 8 suffered various fortunes and misfortunes in their hopes to also gain entry into the championship race.
Briscoe held off Daniel Hemric by 1.199 seconds, but also a hard-charging Ryan Sieg, who was quickly closing on new tires and hoping to use them to strike first into the NASCAR Xfinity Series version of the Final Four.
Briscoe also established a new record for a non-Cup Series driver with his ninth win, cementing his status as a future driver on Sundays and Ford Performance’s top prospect
“Super happy to lock into Phoenix, it’ll be a lot less stressful the next two weeks,” Briscoe said. “That’ll be nice. Can’t say thank you enough to everybody at Stewart-Haas Racing, this Ford Performance Racing School Mustang was lights out.”
Briscoe swept all three stages en route to his triumph and now has three full weeks for crew chief Richard Boswell to prepare a car for Phoenix.
Meanwhile, the playoffs were immediately impacted just two runs and one restart into the race when Austin Cindric, Ross Chastain and Noah Gragson were each involved in a multi-car pile-up. Gragson was not able to continue while Cindric was forced to hobbled around the racetrack at minimal speed.
“We were in the middle, four-wide and it’s tough,” Gragson said after getting cleared from the infield care center. “We all get crowded off Turn 2 on the restart. It’s a bummer and definitely frustrating. But we were racing for the lead, just a racing deal.
“We’ve got good speed at Texas in the past so I’m confident about that and we are extra motivated,” he added. “That’s the good thing about these Xfinity Playoffs. You don’t want to have a bad race but if you do, it allows you to rebound. We’re going to have our heads held high this week.”
#NASCARPlayoffs contenders come together early!@NoahGragson and @AustinCindric collide causing extensive damage to both cars. pic.twitter.com/i4UHFQfoiD
Chastain was involved in two other incidents on the night and all three contenders paid a steep price for their misfortune.
Justin Allgaier triggered a separate incident with 28 laps remaining (more on that below) but was able to recover to a 10th place result.
Chastain finished 12th, Cindrick was 28th and Gragson was 36th.
Conversely, Sieg’s third place finish gave him a fighting chance to advance on points over the next two weeks at Texas and Martinsville. Cindric and Allgaier came into Saturday night’s race ranked second and fourth among the eight championship-eligible drivers.
1. Chase Briscoe
2. Justin Allgaier +11
3. Brandon Jones +9
4. Austin Cindric +2
5. Justin Haley -2
6. Ross Chastain -12
7. Ryan Sieg -17
8. Noah Gragson
CRASH OF THE YEAR CONTENDER
The race featured one of wildest crashes of the season, one that red flagged the event with 28 laps to go.
On the restart with 28 to go, Justin Allgaier attempted to complete a pass from the apron into Turn 1 and it ignited an incident that collected Rily Herbst and Brandon Jones, while also sending Anthony Alfredo into the wall, flipping onto its roof and across the track.
The Richard Childress Racing No. 21 burst into flames before coming to a rest upside down on the apron. It took over 10 minutes to safely flip the car back over but Alfredo exited his car with a smile and thumbs up.
“That was the craziest thing I’ve ever experienced,” Alfredo said afterwards. “That definitely shows how fast things happen in racing. I’m just glad to be okay. I’ve got to thank the NASCAR safety crew for being there immediately before I even realized it was over. I’m very thankful for our safety team, our safe race cars we have today and all the safety equipment that goes into keeping all us drivers safe in the race cars.”
Alfredo says the worst part of the incident was just waiting upside down for the safety crew to get him right side up.
“It felt like an eternity,” Alfredo added, “but I know the safety crew is working tremendously fast. I wasn’t able to see how they were working to get me out of there. I tried to relax the best I could and hang in there. It was weird. The worst part about it was all the blood rushing to your head, but I’m all good.”
Allgaier immediately issued an apology over his team’s radio communication and called Alfredo after the race to come clean. It was just an aggressive move by a driving racing to make the championship race.
I wanted to make sure and talk to @anthonyalfredo first, and I’m glad I did, but extremely disappointed in tonight. Although there was room above the 68 and he was pinching us down, I should’ve backed out earlier. I’m glad AA is ok and there’s no excuse. Just have to do better.
1. Chase Briscoe
2. Daniel Hemric
3. Ryan Sieg
4. Justin Haley
5. Austin Hill
6. Josh Williams
7. Brett Moffitt
8. Michael Annett
9. Brandon Jones
10. Justin Allgaier
11. Harrison Burton
12. Ross Chastain
13. Brandon Brown
14. Tommy Joe Martins
15. Jeremy Clements
16. Dexter Bean
17. B.J. McLeod
18. Bayley Currey
19. Jesse Little
20. Jeffrey Earnhardt
21. Myatt Snider
22. Timmy Hill
23. Alex Labbe
24. David Starr
25. Matt Mills
26. Kody Vanderwal
27. Jesse Iwuji
28. Austin Cindric
29. Anthony Alfredo
30. Riley Herbst
31. Vinnie Miller
32. Joe Graf, Jr.
33. Josh Reaume
34. Ryan Vargas
35. Stephen Leicht
36. Noah Gragson
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