The Xfinity Series took on the familiar left turns of Kansas Motor Speedway this weekend in the middle race of the Round of 8. Coming off of a win by a non-playoff driver, the remaining eight in the playoffs hoped to win and lock themselves in by the end of the day.
Having been to this track before, the field was not able to participate in any practice or qualifying sessions. This meant that the starting lineup was to be determined by the metric that has been in use all year. Starting position was determined as 25% driver’s finishing position from the previous race, 25% owner’s finishing position from the previous race, 35% team owner points, and 15% fastest lap from the previous race. This meant that the 18 of Daniel Hemric was to lead the field to green with the 22 of Austin Cindric beside him. The 7 of Justin Allgaier, 9 of Noah Gragson, and 16 of AJ Allmendinger rounded out the rest of the top-five.
There were no three-time failures in pre-race tech inspection, meaning no one was sent to the rear for technical issues. Hemric and the 11 of Justin Haley both failed twice which stripped them of their pit selection for next week’s race at Martinsville. The only drivers that were sent to the rear for the start were the 17 of Garrett Smithley and the 61 of Loris Hezemans, as they were late driver replacements.
The green flag was flown at 2:45 p.m. and Hemric was off with the early lead. At lap ten, the 22 of Cindric took the high line and passed the 18 for the lead. The scheduled competition caution came out at lap 21 as a result of no practice, and no lead lap cars came down pit road.
There were no changes at the restart as Cindric led the field to green from the inside with Hemric on his outside. Just three laps later, the 48 of Jade Buford took a hard hit into the wall off turn four after making contact with the 26 of Dylan Lupton. Once again, no one pitted, but Buford was out of the race.
Cindric and Hemric made up the front row again, this time with Hemric taking the lead on the restart. Later that same lap, however, the 16 of Allmendinger passed both for the lead, and held them off for the stage one victory.
All cars on the lead lap pitted for tires at the stage break, and Cindric gained a spot on the race off pit road, putting him in the lead. These stops were riddled with issues, however, as Allmendinger lost seven spots after his crew dropped some lug nuts, and Allgaier lost twelve after his jack man slipped.
This time, it was Cindric and the 54 of Ty Gibbs on the front row as the race restarted. There was not much action in the second stage, other than the 22 and 54 battling for the lead. While Gibbs caught Cindric on lap 85 due to a lapped car slowing the 22 down, he was unable to make the pass and Cindric earned the stage victory.
All the lead lap cars pitted again for tires at the break with Gibbs winning the race off pit road. However, he was penalized for speeding in two different spots and sent to the rear for the restart. This once again put Cindric and Hemric on the front row.
On the first lap of the stage, the 9 of Gragson made contact with Hemric, and both suffered heavy damage. Both pitted to repair their damage and took a set of sticker tires.
It was Cindric and the 20 of Harrison Burton on the front row at the restart, and the field only made it one lap before the caution was brought out again. This time, it was for the 07 of Joe Graf Jr. who took a spin off turn two.
This time, it was Cindric and the 2 of Myatt Snider at the front for the restart. Although he held onto second for a few laps, Snider got loose and scraped the wall of turn two at lap 110, and fell back to sixth. The 20 of Burton was closing in on the leader when the 5 of Mason Massey took a spin and hit the wall in turn two, bringing out the caution. The leaders pitted for tires at the break, with Hemric and Gragson taking their last set.
The restart saw Cindric and Gibbs on the front row with Gibbs taking the early lead. At lap 143, Cindric passed him yet again for the lead. 13 laps later, the caution was brought out yet again, this time for debris on the track as the 07 of Graf Jr. lost a tire. Nine cars stayed out while others pitted for tires, and the 7’s pit struggles continued when his crew member fell yet again and he lost four spots.
This time, it was Gragson and Allmendinger on the front row with Gragson taking the lead by turn two. Without making it a single lap, the caution came out once again when the 19 of Brandon Jones took a spin, avoiding any contact. The front row was the same on the restart, and Gragson held onto the lead with the help of a push from Hemric.
By lap 166, Cindric found himself in the lead again, but his lead was quickly squashed when the 8 of Sam Mayer clipped Harrison Burton and sent him spinning into Gragson. Both cars were done for the day which severely damaged their playoff position. Those who had not pitted at the prior caution took their last set of tires at this break.
It was Cindric and Gibbs on the front row for the final restart with Cindric clearing for the lead. However, Gibbs made the pass for the lead on lap 190 and held off Cindric for the final ten laps. This was the eleventh win for the 54 car, and second in a row. The rest of the top-five was filled out by Cindric, Allmendinger, Haley, and the 39 of Ryan Sieg.
The final race of the Round of 8 will take place next Saturday, October 30th at Martinsville Speedway. It will determine the Championship Four that will contend for the title at Phoenix the following week.
Featured photo from @TyGibbs_ on Twitter.