Gibbs overcomes speeding penalty to win Saturday’s Kansas Lottery 300, top 3 takeaways from the Round of 8 playoff race

For the second straight week, the No. 54 Toyota from Joe Gibbs Racing was rebounding from a mid race pit road speeding penalty to win a race in the NASCAR Xfinity Series. Last Saturday in Texas, it was John Hunter Nemechek accomplishing that feat. This week at the Kansas Speedway, it was Ty Gibbs’ turn.

The 19 year old grandson of owner Joe Gibbs, exited pit road first following the round of stops at the conclusion of the second stage. The only problem was, he did so while speeding.

As a result, Gibbs would have to go to the tail end of the field to start the third and final stage of action in Saturday’s Kansas Lottery 300. The thing is, he’d catch a lucky break via a quick caution when Daniel Hemric spun exiting Turn 2 on the restart. Noah Gragson had now where to go and got into him in bringing out the fifth yellow of the race.

Gibbs, while still on the lead lap, would move up to restart with the leaders again, this time in the top 15. There were only 18 cars on the lead lap at the time and two had just spun. He’d steadily move his way back up and pass Austin Cindric with 11 laps left for the lead and never look back. Gibbs, would prevail in Kansas for his fourth victory of the season and take the 54 team back to victory lane for the 11th time in 31 races run including two straight.

The thing is, none of the full-time drivers for JGR have won a race this season as all the triumphs have come from this car. Kyle Busch has won five times, Gibbs four, Nemechek 1 and Christopher Bell the other.

Gibbs, bested Cindric by .759-seconds in the first of two races on the day for him as he will race in the ARCA race after in which he’s going to be crowned the season champion so long as he just takes the green flag.

KANSAS CITY, KANSAS – OCTOBER 23: Austin Cindric, driver of the #22 Odyssey Battery Ford, and Daniel Hemric, driver of the #18 Poppy Bank Toyota, race during the NASCAR Xfinity Series Kansas Lottery 300 at Kansas Speedway on October 23, 2021 in Kansas City, Kansas. (Photo by Sean Gardner/Getty Images)

Cindric, had to settle for second despite leading a race-high 151 of 200 laps. It was his seventh top eight in the last eight races run on the season and now sits +47 in the standings heading to the final race of the semifinal round next Saturday at the Martinsville (VA) Speedway.

AJ Allmendinger is also +47 after his third place finish in his No. 16 Chevrolet while Justin Haley and Ryan Sieg rounded out the top five on a cloudy, cool day in the nation’s heartland on Saturday.

Rough Race Again For Playoff Drivers

Kansas may be a 1.5-mile track but for whatever reason, it just chews up and spits out playoff drivers. 5 of the 8 in the Xfinity Series field had problems in 200 laps of racing with Noah Gragson and Daniel Hemric’s incident on Lap 96, Brandon Jones’ on Lap 159, Justin Allgaier’s car falling off its jack on his stop on Lap 155 and then Gragson and Harrison Burton crashing via contact between Sam Mayer and Burton on the front stretch on Lap 178.

Burton, Jones Facing Must Wins in Martinsville, Gragson Loses 26 Points In 1 Race, Stage Points Difference In Being On The Good Side And Bad

We’re five races into the seven race Xfinity Series playoffs and in four of them, a non playoff driver won including both in the Round of 8. Josh Berry won the postseason opener in Las Vegas. Brandon Brown won a week later in Talladega. AJ Allmendinger became the one and only playoff driver to win on the ROVAL while John Hunter Nemechek and Ty Gibbs have each won in the JGR No. 54 Toyota in the Round of 8 at Texas and Kansas respectively.

That means that all four spots into the Championship 4 are still open. At least three spots will be available on points if someone in the playoff field wins next Saturday at the Martinsville (VA) Speedway.

The thing is, the bottom two drivers are facing must wins with the top two drivers essentially locking themselves by. AJ Allmendinger and Austin Cindric are each +47 with one race left. Both Brandon Jones (-40) and Harrison Burton (-51) are on the extreme opposite end as they’re likely facing a deficit of too many points to make up in one race now. Jones, hasn’t won since Darlington in 2020 (41 races) while Burton’s win in this very Martinsville race last Halloween (32 races) was his last win.

Jones, has had four top sixes in his last six races but was only 10th and 11th in this round while scoring only three total stage points in the semifinal round.

Burton, has one finish better than fifth in his last 16 starts on the season and has only scored four stage points in each of the two Round of 8 races. To be 8th and 34th this round, that’s not going to cut it.

The four drivers between are points racing as stage points are going to be key to this next Saturday.

Noah Gragson has been great this round by Saturday’s crash leaves him -24 after being +2 entering the race. He’s lost 26 points despite 11 stage points on the day and 11 more last week in a third place effort at Texas. That’s how fickle everything is in this postseason. Gragson, has nine top seven’s in his last 11 starts on the season still but needs a lot to make up 24 points in one race.

Justin Haley is the only other driver on the outside looking in. He’s -7. Haley, finished fourth though at Kansas for his ninth straight top 10 on the season including eight of the last nine in the top seven. He’s also been in the top 10 in 15 of the last 16 heading to Martinsville. But, the reason he’s in this position below the cut line is due to just having scored three stage points all day.

Daniel Hemric is on the plus side of the cut line (+7) due to stage points he accumulated. He only finished 15th on Saturday but is on the good side of the cutline due to having 17 stage points via the two stages run in Kansas. That’s the difference between he and Haley right now. 17-3 in stage points has the guy who finished 15th seven points ahead of the guy who finished 4th. They entered one point apart.

Justin Allgaier is +9 after scoring his 10th straight top 10 on the season and 13th in his last 14 tries.

It’s down to Allgaier, Hemric, Haley and Gragson on points with Jones and Burton having to win. Allmendinger and Cindric are likely by.

Tire Strategy Helps Allmendinger/Haley Nab Top 5’s Saturday in Kansas

For much of Saturday’s Kansas Lottery 300, the Kaulig Racing cars were struggling. They just didn’t have the handling to contend for the win. But, they used tire strategy to their advantage to help gain top fives. See, there’s only five sets of tires available for these weekends. You can either use that to a gain or a deficit. Kaulig, used it as a plus.

See, everyone had two sets of tires left in the final stage. When do you use them was the biggest key. With the cautions on Lap 135, Lap 154, Lap 159 and Lap 178, how you used your final two sets was critical.

Kaulig elected to not pit on the Lap 155 stops. They put Allmendinger second and Haley in sixth. They had one set of tires left with most of the other leaders having none. Then, they got the caution for Gragson and Burton crashing on Lap 178 so they elected for fresh rubber as a result.

Eight cars didn’t pit because they were out of tires. Allmendinger was now 11th after his stop. Haley was in 13th. With fresh tires though, they quickly moved up. In one lap, Allmendinger was sixth. He’d move up to third in the end while Haley trailed him through into fourth.

While they didn’t win the race, it was a net gain for both because they were each outside of the top five for most of the day prior. The pit call in the final stage for how they’d use their tires was key.


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