Friday, July 19, 2024

Xfinity regular season, Truck playoff opener conclude in Kansas

Tensions ran high at Kansas Speedway as the NASCAR Xfinity and Craftsman Truck Series respectively ran their regular season and Round of 10 finales. By the end, as John Hunter Nemechek and Christian Eckes celebrated in Victory Lane, those like Parker Kligerman breathed a sigh of relief while Matt DiBenedetto and Matt Crafton could only begin preparing for 2024.

Kligerman held the twelfth and final Xfinity playoff spot entering Kansas and either needed to win or for someone already locked in to do so. Brandon Jones, who was right behind him in points, tried to steal the win for himself but was no match for Nemechek who led 154 laps to win for the sixth time. Sheldon Creed held off Kligerman for third, but the former was already assured a playoff spot as well and thus made their battle rather meaningless.

“I was the biggest John Hunter Nemechek fan on the planet,” Kligerman remarked. “As I saw the #9 (Jones) fire off, I was like, ‘Oh no! We’ve done all we should do on points. We’re so close. I don’t think I could beat the #20 (Nemechek), but the #9 looks like he might.’ And then obviously the #20 was just so dominant.

“The #2 (Creed) kind of crept up on us and took third. I really wanted third place, but (during) that last run, I had to just be smart, really, really smart, so I drove the smartest race I thought I could drive that put us in a position to not have anything stupid happen, keep us the highest position if we get a late-race restart and go on in the playoffs.”

Although Kligerman will race for a championship in his first season with Big Machine Racing Team, his #48 is not eligible for the owner’s title as Joe Gibbs Racing‘s multi-driver #19 car took that playoff slot via Ryan Truex‘s win at Dover in April. Joe Graf Jr. piloted the #19 at Kansas to his career-high second top ten of the season.

Another quirk in the driver’s versus owner’s playoffs exists at Kaulig Racing. Daniel Hemric qualified for the former in the team’s #11, but their #10 is in the latter courtesy of victories by A.J. Allmendinger and Kyle Larson. For continuity, Kaulig elected to move Hemric to the #10 for Kansas and the remainder of the season.

Creed’s team-mate Austin Hill was fifth as he secured the regular season championship.

Contrary to Nemechek’s domination that left Jones’ playoff hopes in the dust, the Truck race ended in a mad scramble as Eckes passed Zane Smith and Corey Heim in a three-abreast run on the final lap to score his third win of 2023. DiBenedetto, who virtually needed a win to advance barring the highly unlikely scenario of Ben Rhodes finishing twenty-seven spots behind him, capitalised on the last-lap drama to finish third but was eliminated as Rhodes was twenty-fifth.

DiBenedetto is not returning to Rackley WAR for 2024, and will use the final four races to bolster his résumé in free agency.

Crafton’s hopes of a record-tying fourth Truck championship will have to wait another year. He endured a nightmare weekend after a “half-assed job cleaning the race track” caused him to suffer a blown tyre in practice that necessitated racing a backup truck. Starting at the rear, he “busted my butt trying to make something happen” and ended up with two more punctures.

“Trying to get up there and get as many points we could, that part’s on me. 100 percent on me, said Crafton. “The practice still had nothing to do with any of us here. It was just a pathetic job of cleaning up.”

Xfinity race results

Finish Start Number Driver Team Manufacturer Laps Status
1 7 20 John Hunter Nemechek Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota 200 Running
2 4 9 Brandon Jones JR Motorsports Chevrolet 200 Running
3 16 2 Sheldon Creed Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet 200 Running
4 15 48 Parker Kligerman Big Machine Racing Team Chevrolet 200 Running
5 9 21 Austin Hill Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet 200 Running
6 6 8 Josh Berry JR Motorsports Chevrolet 200 Running
7 10 25 Brett Moffitt AM Racing Ford 200 Running
8 18 11 Derek Kraus Kaulig Racing Chevrolet 200 Running
9 11 19 Joe Graf Jr.^ Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota 200 Running
10 31 26 Kaz Grala Sam Hunt Racing Toyota 200 Running
11 26 31 Parker Retzlaff Jordan Anderson Racing Chevrolet 200 Running
12 17 27 Jeb Burton Jordan Anderson Racing Chevrolet 199 Running
13 24 92 Josh Williams DGM Racing Chevrolet 199 Running
14 20 24 Connor Mosack Sam Hunt Racing Toyota 199 Running
15 21 51 Jeremy Clements Jeremy Clements Racing Chevrolet 199 Running
16 37 08 Mason Massey SS-Green Light Racing Ford 199 Running
17 23 43 Ryan Ellis Alpha Prime Racing Chevrolet 199 Running
18 1 7 Justin Allgaier JR Motorsports Chevrolet 199 Running
19 27 53 Matt Mills* Emerling-Gase Motorsports Chevrolet 198 Running
20 29 29 Kyle Sieg RSS Racing Ford 198 Running
21 25 07 Dawson Cram SS-Green Light Racing Chevrolet 198 Running
22 38 28 C.J. McLaughlin RSS Racing Ford 198 Running
23 8 98 Riley Herbst Stewart-Haas Racing Ford 198 Running
24 36 35 Joey Gase Emerling-Gase Motorsports Toyota 198 Running
25 34 4 Garrett Smithley JD Motorsports Chevrolet 198 Running
26 28 66 Leland Honeyman † MBM Motorsports Ford 197 Running
27 32 78 Anthony Alfredo B.J. McLeod Motorsports Chevrolet 197 Running
28 33 6 Brennan Poole JD Motorsports Chevrolet 197 Running
29 22 45 Rajah Caruth* Alpha Prime Racing Chevrolet 197 Running
30 14 39 Ryan Sieg RSS Racing Ford 196 Running
31 30 38 Nick Leitz* RSS Racing Ford 194 Running
32 12 16 Chandler Smith Kaulig Racing Chevrolet 186 Running
33 35 02 Blaine Perkins Our Motorsports Chevrolet 140 Brakes
34 5 10 Daniel Hemric^ Kaulig Racing Chevrolet 120 Running
35 2 18 Sammy Smith Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota 97 Accident
36 3 00 Cole Custer Stewart-Haas Racing Ford 60 Accident
37 13 1 Sam Mayer JR Motorsports Chevrolet 20 Accident
38 19 91 Kyle Weatherman DGM Racing Chevrolet 19 Accident
DNQ 44 Leland Honeyman † Alpha Prime Racing Chevrolet
Bold – Currently in playoffs
^ – Currently in owner playoffs
Italics – Competing for Rookie of the Year
* – Ineligible for points
† – Honeyman replaced Timmy Hill in the #66 after failing to qualify

Truck race results

Finish Start Number Driver Team Manufacturer Laps Status
1 8 19 Christian Eckes McAnally-Hilgemann Racing Chevrolet 134 Running
2 16 17 Taylor Gray TRICON Garage Toyota 134 Running
3 11 25 Matt DiBenedetto Rackley WAR Chevrolet 134 Running
4 15 11 Corey Heim TRICON Garage Toyota 134 Running
5 14 38 Zane Smith Front Row Motorsports Ford 134 Running
6 17 42 Carson Hocevar Niece Motorsports Chevrolet 134 Running
7 20 52 Stewart Friesen Halmar Friesen Racing Toyota 134 Running
8 2 2 Nick Sanchez Rev Racing Chevrolet 134 Running
9 21 16 Tyler Ankrum Hattori Racing Enterprises Toyota 134 Running
10 10 61 Jake Drew Hattori Racing Enterprises Toyota 134 Running
11 5 35 Jake Garcia McAnally-Hilgemann Racing Chevrolet 134 Running
12 19 24 Rajah Caruth GMS Racng Chevrolet 134 Running
13 9 1 Jesse Love TRICON Garage Toyota 134 Running
14 1 4 Chase Purdy Kyle Busch Motorsports Chevrolet 133 Running
15 13 5 Dean Thompson TRICON Garage Toyota 133 Running
16 4 51 Jack Wood^ Kyle Busch Motorsports Chevrolet 133 Running
17 12 23 Grant Enfinger GMS Racng Chevrolet 133 Running
18 3 98 Ty Majeski ThorSport Racing Ford 133 Running
19 32 9 Colby Howard CR7 Motorsports Chevrolet 133 Running
20 24 32 Bret Holmes Bret Holmes Racing Chevrolet 133 Running
21 22 41 Bayley Currey Niece Motorsports Chevrolet 132 Running
22 34 45 Lawless Alan Niece Motorsports Chevrolet 132 Running
23 23 43 Daniel Dye GMS Racng Chevrolet 132 Running
24 33 56 Timmy Hill Hill Motorsports Toyota 132 Running
25 6 99 Ben Rhodes ThorSport Racing Ford 132 Running
26 18 15 Tanner Gray TRICON Garage Toyota 131 Running
27 25 02 Kaden Honeycutt Young’s Motorsports Chevrolet 131 Running
28 36 33 Chase Janes Reaume Brothers Racing Ford 131 Running
29 29 90 Justin Carroll TC Motorsports Toyota 130 Running
30 7 13 Hailie Deegan ThorSport Racing Ford 130 Running
31 27 12 Spencer Boyd Young’s Motorsports Chevrolet 129 Running
32 28 20 Greg Van Alst Young’s Motorsports Chevrolet 129 Running
33 31 88 Matt Crafton ThorSport Racing Ford 125 Running
34 30 10 Jennifer Jo Cobb Jennifer Jo Cobb Racing Chevrolet 125 Running
35 26 22 Mason Maggio AM Racing Ford 117 Accident
36 35 04 Spencer Davis Roper Racing Ford 1 Suspension
Underline – Eliminated from playoffs
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