The first race of the NASCAR Xfinity Series Round of Eight came to a close at Texas Motor Speedway with Truck Series driver John Hunter Nemechek holding the victory trophy. He locked the No. 54 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota into the owners’ championship race while his three teammates missed out on an opportunity to gain critical points.
With only two races remaining in the final cutoff round, all three full-time Joe Gibbs Racing drivers are below the cutline. Daniel Hemric is two points below after a second-place run at Texas while Harrison Burton is 21 points below. Brandon Jones, on the other hand, has to make up 32 points. None of the JGR drivers have won in 2021.
The closest drivers to the JGR trio are teammates at JR Motorsports. Noah Gragson is two points above the cutline while Justin Allgaier is only four points above the line. Team Penske’s Austin Cindric (+26) and Kaulig Racing’s AJ Allmendinger (+30) both have a comfortable cushion with races at Kansas Speedway and Martinsville Speedway on the schedule.
Burton’s Gamble Did Not Pay Off in Stage 3
The driver of the No. 20 Toyota Supra, Burton entered the race at Texas Motor Speedway nine points below the cutline with the goal of locking up his second consecutive fall race victory. However, he struggled to contend throughout the day before taking a gamble during the final caution.
When Brandon Brown slid into the wall and destroyed the front of the No. 68 Chevrolet Camaro, he forced the other drivers to make a difficult decision about whether to head down pit road for fresh tires or stay out on the track. Burton chose to take the spot at the front of the field while the other playoff drivers headed to their pits.
The gamble worked at first. Burton took the lead on the final restart and took advantage of the clean air while teammate John Hunter Nemechek fought for position with two fresh tires. However, the driver of the No. 20 lost his lead as the cars with fresher tires passed him. Instead of winning for the second consecutive year, Burton ended the day eighth overall.
Jones Will Head to a Track Where He Has Previous Wins
The driver of the No. 18 Toyota Supra has yet to win in 2021, and he sits 32 points below the cutline with only two races remaining before the field cuts to four drivers. Making up this deficit will not be a simple task, but Jones will have an opportunity when he heads to a track where he has previous success.
Jones has made six starts at Kansas Speedway during his Xfinity Series career including four with Joe Gibbs Racing. He has only finished outside of the top 15 one time — 2018 when he crashed on lap 12. The rest of the trips have featured strong performances.
Jones has four top-10 runs at Kansas, a list that includes ninth in the 2020 playoff race and eighth in the 2016 playoff race. He also has two wins at the 1.5-mile tri-oval. Jones reached Victory Lane at Kansas for the first time during the 2019 playoff race. He then captured the checkered flag once again during the 2020 summer race.