An early race crash ended Brennan Poole’s NASCAR XFINITY Series championship hopes Saturday at Phoenix Raceway.
Poole, driving the Chip Ganassi Racing No. 48 Chevrolet, started 14th and had moved into the top 10 in the first stage of the Ticket Galaxy 200. But Poole had trouble in lapped traffic on the 22nd of a scheduled 200 laps, making contact with the No. 8 of Caesar Bacarella and then the outside wall in Turn 1.
The mixup relegated him to a 38th-place finish and a boot out of the XFINITY Series Playoffs, along with fellow ousted drivers Cole Custer, Matt Tifft and Ryan Reed.
“I saw the 8 car go in, and we were kind of going to go to the top to go around him and he slid up, so I tried to go bottom,” Poole told NBC Sports in the garage. “I didn’t know really what was going to happen there. So I tried to go underneath him and we made a little contact and cut the right-front tire down and it sent us into the wall. Just bad luck, bad circumstances. I guess I could’ve been a little more cautious there, but just trying to get up there and get some stage points and keep moving forward.
“Our car was pretty good. Just a bummer. I don’t know what else to say. Sometimes some lapped cars are in your way, you’ve got to navigate around them, and we just didn’t make it happen.”
Poole’s crew worked diligently on repairs under the constrictions of the five-minute crash clock, and the No. 48 briefly returned to the track. But Poole’s car was unable to turn, and he brushed the outside wall again while catching up to the field during the caution period.
That additional contact further damaged his car’s right-front corner, and Poole drove to the garage.
Poole entered the playoff picture with a provisional grip on fourth place in the Round of 8. But Saturday’s incident in the cut-off race ended his hopes of advancing as one of the four drivers competing for a championship next Saturday at Homestead-Miami Speedway.
Poole was also critical of Bacarella, a 41-year-old Floridian making his XFINITY Series debut, as he bemoaned his postseason fate.
“It’s a shame, but it’s already over. It’s done with,” Poole said. “I can’t control it, so we’ll move on to Homestead and try to go get our first win there and start getting ready for the next year. I just feel like we’ve got to re-evaluate some of these lapped cars and who’s out there and who’s not out there.”
If it’s any consolation to Poole, 21-time Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series race winner Jeff Burton indicated he would’ve made the same decision if he were driving.
“Yes, I think you should revisit (the incident), you should try to learn from the situation,” Burton said during the race broadcast.
“But if I’m driving that car, I’m doing the same thing he did.”