The NASCAR Xfinity Series drivers took on Kansas Speedway on Saturday, October 23, for a pivotal playoff race. Eight drivers had the goal of reaching the championship four with a win, but none could achieve this goal. Part-time driver Ty Gibbs locked up the win and became the youngest driver in Xfinity Series history to win four races in a single season.
The first two stages did not feature on-track incidents, but the final segment told a different story. Multiple drivers brought out caution flags for spins or wrecks, forcing the drivers to line up on restarts over and over again. The final one took place with 15 laps remaining and set up a wild final battle between Gibbs and defending champion Austin Cindric.
The driver of the No. 22 took the lead early and held on for five laps. However, Gibbs took the lead on Lap 190 and did not relinquish. He built up a one-second advantage over Cindric and raced his way to the checkered flag for the fourth time in 2021.
The win at Kansas Speedway only kicked off a special day for Gibbs. He also locked up the ARCA Menards Series championship simply by climbing into the No. 18 Toyota and taking the green flag from the pole position.
Daniel Hemric & Noah Gragson Suffered Damage Early in Stage 3
The playoff race nearly came to an early end for two championship hopefuls. Daniel Hemric and Noah Gragson made contact and both spun early in the final stage, sending them both to the pits for fresh tires and repairs.
The incident occurred when Hemric got loose in the No. 18 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota Supra. He slid up the track and into the path of Gragson, who was on a run with the No. 9 JR Motorsports Chevrolet. Gragson made contact with the rear of Hemric’s stock car and sent it into more of a spin. Though the No. 18 slid back and hit the right front fender of the No. 9.
While both playoff drivers suffered damage during the incident, neither lost many positions. They restarted at the rear of the lead lap but were still inside the top-20. Gragson, in particular, navigated his way back through the field and raced inside the top-five on Lap 115.
A Rookie Mistake Put 2 Drivers in a ‘Must Win’ Situation
While Gragson managed to reach the top three after his collision with Hemric, he did not remain on the track. A rookie mistake by Sam Mayer sent both him and Harrison Burton to the infield care center on Lap 178 of the scheduled 200.
The incident occurred as Gragson, Burton, and Mayer fought for third. The No. 9 held the outside line while Burton was in the center of the track. The rookie in Mayer tried to move up behind Burton so he could draft, but he mistimed his move and clipped the rear of the No. 20, sending it into the outside wall.
Gragson had nowhere to go, and he slammed violently into the side of Burton’s stock car and sending it into the air. This collision destroyed the front of the No. 9. Gragson slid through the infield while flames burst from the engine compartment. He also dropped from five points above the cutline to well below.
There is only one race remaining in the Round of Eight, and both Gragson and Burton face must-win situations. They are no longer able to secure their spots by virtue of points. The driver of the No. 20 is 51 points below the cutline while Gragson is 24 points below.
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