After Saturday’s Kansas Lottery 300 took a sharp turn with 16 laps left, Brandon Jones sped away on two straight restarts to collect his first NASCAR Xfinity Series victory in a race that ended with Playoff drivers Cole Custer and Tyler Reddick brawling on pit road.
Jones stretched his advantage after a restart on Lap 196 of 200, with first Chase Briscoe and then Reddick giving chase. Jones held off both pursuers and crossed the finish line .272 seconds ahead of Reddick, with Briscoe .623 seconds behind the leader.
“My foot was literally shaking on the accelerator on that last lap,” Jones said in Victory Lane. “I’m not even sure if I was wide open at the time that I was doing it. There was a lot of nerves and a lot of emotion going through my mind, but I saw it coming, and I was pretty pumped.”
Jones’ triumph in the Round of 8 opener denied the eight remaining playoff drivers an automatic berth in the four-driver field for the Xfinity Series title at the Nov. 16 finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway. Four playoff drivers followed Jones in order at the finish.
Contact from Reddick’s Chevrolet forced Custer into the outside wall after the final restart, and Custer dropped to 11th at the finish. After both drivers exited their cars on pit road, Custer approached Reddick to voice his displeasure, placing a hand on Reddick’s shoulder.
Reddick responded with both hands to the collar of Custer’s firesuit, and the drivers fell to the pavement while grappling, only to be separated by crew members.
“I put my hand on him, and he just went berserk,” said Custer, who led a race-high 85 laps and won the second stage. “I thought we had a good car. I thought we had a chance to win.”
“If he puts a hand on me, I’m going to put a hand on him back,” Reddick said. “That’s just how it’s going to be if we’re having a conversation that way… It was just the heat of the moment — we’re pissed off. I’m sure we’ll talk about it here soon, maybe today, tomorrow.
“I obviously didn’t want to get into his quarter panel, but if I lift, I get passed. I hate that it happened to him, but we’ll try to move forward.”
Briscoe was leading, with pole winner and series leader Christopher Bell right behind when the two drivers closed fast on the No. 0 of Garrett Smithley on Lap 184. Smithley steered toward the top of the track and pinched Briscoe’s Ford into the outside wall.
With no room to maneuver, Bell plowed into Briscoe’s car, sending Bell’s No. 20 Supra sliding across the infield grass with major damage to the right front. Briscoe recovered to run third, after his crew replaced the rear bumper cover on his No. 98 Mustang, but Bell had to settle for a 12th-place finish.
Bell, however, retained the series lead by 11 points over Custer and 12 over third-place Reddick, as the “Big Three” remained comfortably above the cut line for the Championship 4 race at Homestead-Miami Speedway.
Justin Allgaier ran fifth and is fourth in the standings, two points ahead of Briscoe.
Austin Cindric’s championship hopes took a severe blow when the driver of the No. 22 Team Penske Ford tangled with the No. 18 Toyota of Harrison Burton on Lap 70. After an intense exchange of positions moments before, Cindric tagged the right rear of Burton’s car, turning it sideways.
But Burton remained in Cindric’s path, and both cars sustained damage when they collided in the middle of the track. Burton retired with a broken right front suspension. Ultimately, with a succession of unscheduled pit stops, Cindric finished 25th, six laps down, and dropped to eighth in the Playoff standings, 30 points below the cutoff for the Championship 4.
Jeremy Clements, Justin Haley, John Hunter Nemechek, Ryan Sieg and Ross Chastain finished sixth through 10th, respectively.
Contributing: Staff reports