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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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 2016 season 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 NASCAR X-FINITY Series. Twelve drivers will qualify and if the post-season began today, the field would consist of rookies Erik Jones, Brandon Jones (no relation) 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 by nineteen points in the fight for the final “playoff” spot with eight races remaining in the regular season. The post-season Chase will begin September 24th in Sparta, Kentucky … Next stop for the X-FINITY Series will be Saturday night’s U.S. Cellular 250 at Iowa Speedway. Suarez leads the standings by fourteen points over second-place Sadler with Dillon, Allgaier and Erik Jones completing the top five … Ryan Blaney won last year’s race in Iowa but is not entered this time around. Brad Keselowski is scheduled to drive the Number-22 Team Penske Ford.
THE NASCAR X-FINITY SERIES … also visits the famed Indy oval this weekend for Saturday’s Lilly Diabetes 250. Saturday’s race will be the final Dash 4 Cash race of the season offering four drivers the opportunity to win a one-hundred-thousand dollar bonus. For Ty Dillon it also is an opportunity to lock himself into the NASCAR XFINITY Series Chase should he win the Dash 4 Cash by virtue of winning the bonus at Richmond. Winning the race would also snap a sixty-four race winless streak stringing back to his first series victory at Indianapolis in 2014. He will be up against tough competition, not only from the series regulars but also six Sprint Cup Series drivers who will be pulling double duty. Those drivers are Joey Logano, Paul Menard, Kevin Harvick, Kyle Larson, Matt DiBenedetto and Kyle Busch, who was able to sweep the weekend last year.
The NASCAR X-FINITY Series runs at Daytona this weekend with tonight’s Subway Firecracker 250 Powered by Coca-Cola. The weather also impacted practice for the XFINITY series. Drivers took the track for about twenty-five minutes before lightning sent the cars back to the garage. Erik Jones was the fastest of the twenty-nine cars that made a lap with a speed of 193.353. David Ragan, who is replacing Matt Tifft this weekend, is the only other driver to top 193 miles per hour with a speed of 193.307.
Ty Dillon (192.102), Brandon Jones (192.045) and Justin Marks (192.004) rounded out the top five. The second of two practices was canceled due to persistent thunderstorms in the area. Thursday also saw Chevrolet announce that the sixth-generation Camaro SS will serve as the model for Chevrolet racecars in the NASCAR XFINITY Series, starting next season in 2017. The fifth-generation Camaro was introduced into the NASCAR XFINITY Series in 2013.
Sam Hornish Junior made his return to NASCAR competition a memorable one Sunday afternoon with a dominating drive at Iowa Speedway to claim his fourth career victory.
On Tuesday of last week, Joe Gibbs Racing announced that Hornish would sub for Matt Tifft, who was being treated for a disc condition in his back. Five days later, Hornish had the Number-18 Toyota in Victory Lane after leading 183 of the 250 laps contested. Before Sunday, the last time Hornish competed in one of NASCAR’s national series was last fall’s Sprint Cup finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway. On Sunday, he started third, had his first lead twenty-four laps into the race and led the final 111 trips around the Newton oval – beating runner-up Ty Dillon to the checkered flag by a second-and-a-half. Brad Keselowski, points leader Daniel Suarez and Alex Bowman completed the top five.
Erik Jones qualified on the pole but was forced to start at the rear of the field after unapproved body modifications to his Number-20 J-G-R Toyota. Jones never led a lap and placed twenty-seventh in the forty-car field, seven laps down to Hornish at the finish.
How dominant was Hornish? There were just sixteen cars running on the lead lap at the end of the day … Sunday’s race kicked off the second half of the 2016 regular season, which is the first year for the X-FINITY Series post-season Chase.
Just one day before celebrating his 29th birthday, Ryan Sieg finished twenty-first and holds onto the final provisional “playoff” spot – by nine points over Ross Chastain with twelve races left before the Chase opens.
Marcus Richmond will take over the duties of crew chief on Cole Custer’s Number-00 Junior Motorsports Chevrolet for the remainder of the 2016 Camping World Truck Series, beginning with Saturday night’s race at Iowa Speedway. He replaces Joe Shear Junior, who resigned earlier this month. Richmond has 205 starts as a crew chief in the Truck Series with nine victories. He helped steer Ty Dillon to a runner-up finish in the 2013 championship standings, behind only Matt Crafton. Richmond has most recently served as a crew chief at G-M-S Racing. Custer is currently fourteenth in the standings after seven races, twenty-three points shy of a Chase berth with nine races remaining in the regular season. His best finish this year is fifth place last month at Dover International Speedway.
“Mother Nature” kept her word on Saturday and Kyle Larson was in the right place at the right time to capitalize at Pocono Raceway. He had his Number-42 Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet at the front of the field when the race was stopped by rain three laps past the halfway point of the track’s inaugural X-FINITY Series race. A wet weekend was forecast heading into Saturday’s race, in which Larson led twenty-seven laps including the last nineteen trips around “The Tricky Triangle.”
Rookie pole sitter Erik Jones finished second with Ty Dillon, Kyle Busch and Joey Logano completing the top five. Elliott Sadler grabbed sixth place and cut three points off Daniel Suarez’s lead in the standings. Suarez finished ninth on Saturday and will carry an eleven-point advantage into the next race next weekend at Michigan International Speedway.
With Larson’s victory, Sprint Cup Series drivers have now won nine of the first twelve X-FINITY Series races run this season. Jones and Sadler are the only series regulars to taste victory. Larson started fourth in the forty-car field and had his first lead of the day at Lap-24 … The race included six lead changes among five drivers, four of which are Sprint Cup regulars: Busch, Logano, Larson and Aric Almirola.
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