The X-FINITY Series heads off to Kentucky Speedway, where twelve title hopefuls begin their post-season journey in Saturday night’s Visit Myrtle Beach-dot com 300. There’s also a rookie holding the top seed in the X-FINITY Series Chase … Joe Gibbs Racing’s Erik Jones, who paced the regular season with four wins. He’s joined in the “playoffs” by Elliott Sadler, Daniel Suarez, Ty Dillon, Justin Allgaier, Darrell Wallace Junior, Brendan Gaughan, Ryan Sieg (Seeg), Ryan Reed, Blake Koch, and rookies Brennan Poole and Brandon Jones. The twelve-man title field will be trimmed to eight following the October 7th race at Charlotte Motor Speedway.
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The NASCAR X-FINITY Series also runs on the three-quarter-mile Fairgrounds oval with tonight’s Virginia529 College Savings 250. Junior Motorsports has won the last two races contested there, with Chase Elliott last fall and Dale Earnhardt Junior earlier this season. Neither driver is entered this weekend, with Elliott concentrating on his Sprint Cup duties and Earnhardt still recovering from a concussion. Justin Allgaier, Alex Bowman and regular-season points leader Elliott Sadler make up the Junior Motorsports lineup for this weekend. With just two races remaining in the regular season, Sadler is battling rookie Erik Jones for the top seed in the inaugural X-FINITY Series Chase. He has two victories thus far, one less than Jones … Earlier this season, Sadler finished third at Richmond while Jones was sidelined by an accident and settled for thirty-fourth place in the forty-car field.
Justin Marks got the best of his thirty-nine X-FINITY Series rivals on Saturday by mastering a soggy circuit and driving to victory at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course. Marks, widely known as a road racing specialist but making just his twenty-fifth career series start, led a race-high forty-three laps in his Number-42 Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet – including the final ten, beating pole sitter Sam Hornish Junior to the checkered flag by more than three-and-a-half seconds. Ryan Blaney took third place with Ty Dillon and Justin Allgaier completing the top five. It was a banner day for Chevrolet as the manufacturer grabbed four of the five top finishing positions. Marks started sixteenth in the forty-car field but charged forward at the drop of the green flag. He took his first lead just eleven laps into the race as rain soaked the two-point-two-mile natural road course. It did subside and the track began to dry at the mid-point of the race. But the skies opened up again in the second half, which opened the door for Marks to claim his first career win. Darrell Wallace Junior had the lead on the day’s final restart fourteen laps from the finish but went off the course in the wet conditions, surrendering the top spot to Dillon with Marks in hot pursuit. Dillon slid off the track himself a short time later, giving Marks the opening he needed to reclaim the lead and drive on to victory … Series leader Elliott Sadler started fourth and finished ninth, which was enough for him to stretch his advantage to twenty-five points over second-place Daniel Suarez, who labored to a twenty-third-place finish … Erik Jones was the highest-finishing rookie, coming home in sixth place.
With the 2016 season now well into its second half, X-FINITY Series drivers are heading into their first road-course weekend of the season as they set their sights on Saturday’s Zippo 200 at Watkins Glen International. This year marks the first time the elimination-style “Chase” format that’s been used by the Sprint Cup Series the past two seasons will also be implemented in the X-FINITY Series. Twelve drivers will qualify and if the post-season began today, the field would consist of rookies Erik Jones, Brandon Jones and Brennan Poole … Elliott Sadler, Daniel Suarez, Ty Dillon, Justin Allgaier, Brendan Gaughan, Darrell Wallace Junior, Ryan Reed, Ryan Sieg and Blake Koch … who leads Ross Chastain and Jeremy Clements by twenty-four points in the fight for the final “playoff” spot with seven races remaining in the regular season. The post-season Chase will begin September 24th in Sparta, Kentucky … Erik Jones leads all series regulars with three wins while Sadler currently sits atop the regular-season standings, fourteen points ahead of second-place Suarez.
Forty drivers started Saturday’s U.S. Cellular 250 at Iowa Speedway, but it was just a two-horse race with rookie Erik Jones and Ty Dillon combining to lead all but thirteen of the laps run. When the dust settled, it was Jones parked in Victory Lane with his Number-20 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota. He passed Dillon for his final lead of the night sixteen laps from the finish and stayed there the rest of the way, notching his third victory of the season and giving J-G-R a sweep of the two 2016 races run on the Newton oval. Sam Hornish Junior won the front half of the Midwestern twin bill last month. Jones’ margin of victory over Dillon was three-and-a-half seconds with Elliott Sadler, rookie Brennan Poole and Dakoda Armstrong completing the top five. Jones started second, jumped past pole sitter Daniel Suarez at the drop of the green flag and led a race-high 154 laps. Suarez failed to lead a lap and retired with engine failure in the second half of the race, finishing thirtieth. As a result, he slipped to second in the regular-season standings and is now fourteen points behind Sadler.
The NASCAR X-Finity Series also is running in Charlotte this weekend, with Saturday’s Hisense 300. Elliott Sadler of Junior Motorsports leads the standings by three points over Daniel Suarez. Teams got two practice sessions on Thursday with Ty Dillon posting the fastest overall speed, 181.342 miles per hour in the Number-3 Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet. Rookie Erik Jones, Suarez, Denny Hamlin and Austin Dillon – Ty’s older brother – completed the top five. Suarez had the best average speed over ten consecutive laps at 175.708 miles per hour.
Austin Dillon swept both races at C-M-S last season and goes for three in a row on Saturday. The last driver to do that in Charlotte is Mark Martin in 1995 and 1996 … There is no on-track activity at C-M-S on Friday. The schedule resumes Saturday with X-FINITY Series qualifying at 11:15 a.m. (ET) and a pair of Sprint Cup Series practice sessions … THE CAMPING WORLD TRUCK SERIES … is idle this weekend and will return to action Friday night, June 10th, in Fort Worth, Texas. Motor Racing Network – “The Voice of NASCAR” – will have live coverage of the Rattlesnake 400, beginning at 8:30 p.m. (ET).
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