Larson wins Xfinity in Texas, 4 title-chasing spots open
FORT WORTH, Texas (AP) — With all four spots in the chase for the Xfinity series championship open going into the final elimination race, Erik Jones won’t need a season-best fifth victory to advance.
And he probably won’t be racing for it either, with the focus shifting to points at the top of the standings after Sprint Cup regular Kyle Larson won the Xfinity race at Texas on Saturday.
Jones was tops among the eight Xfinity drivers still in title contention, finishing fourth behind Larson, Brad Keselowski and Kevin Harvick. The 20-year-old is third in points, 10 behind Daniel Suarez, who has a one-point lead over Elliott Sadler.
Because none of the Xfinity contenders won, all four spots are open next weekend in Phoenix. For the finale at Homestead, no Cup drivers will be on the grid with the title on the line.
“The toughest part of our chase is racing the Cup guys,” Jones said. “Had there been no Cup guys in the race, we would have won today and advanced. Yeah, we’re still going to chase a win (in Phoenix). You’ve still got to be points racing and thinking about advancing at the same time.”
Larson held off Keselowski for his first Xfinity win in Texas and second of the season despite a brush with the wall with about five laps remaining. He said he should have won the fall Xfinity race in Texas a year ago, but cut a tire late in the race.
“I looked up in the mirror and I was like, ‘Ah, great, here he comes. He’s probably going to have a big run,’” Larson said about Keselowski, who closed within a couple of car lengths on the final lap. “Actually, after that, I thought it tightened my car up and made it easier to drive up there.”
Larson led for the final 30 laps after Keselowski dominated most the race, leading 145.
Suarez finished fifth despite a battery problem that had him worried about finishing the race. A bad alternator forced him to cut power less than halfway through, and he said he managed to keep his main battery alive until about final 40 laps.
“We were a little lucky that we had the issue right in the middle of the race,” Suarez said. “Maybe 20, 30 more laps and who knows if we were going to finish the race or not.”
While Suarez and Sadler are separated by a point at the top, the same is true for the final qualifying spot, barring a win from those with a bigger deficit.
Blake Koch finished 14th — seventh among the eight title contenders — and is fourth in points and 16 behind Suarez. Justin Allgaier, who finished 10th after spinning out 72 laps into the race, is another point back.
Ryan Reed, Darrell Wallace Jr. and Brendan Gaughan are all at least five points out of the final qualifying spot. But any of the eight can get into the final four with a win in Phoenix.
“At that point it is your whole season,” Reed said. “There is nothing left to lose there. You aren’t points racing at that per se. You have to go beat those guys by five positions.”