John Hunter Nemechek’s sixth victory of the season assured Parker Kligerman, who finished a strong fourth, of a berth in the NASCAR Xfinity Series Playoffs.
Those Playoffs open next Friday at Bristol Motor Speedway.
On Saturday at Kansas Speedway, Nemechek won the first and second stages and beat runner-up Brandon Jones to the finish line by a whopping 7.521 seconds.
There were no mixed feelings on Parker Kligerman’s part—he was ecstatic that John Hunter Nemechek asserted absolute domination over the rest of the field in Saturday’s Kansas Lottery 300 at Kansas Speedway.
Nemechek’s sixth victory of the season assured Kligerman, who finished a strong fourth, of a berth in the NASCAR Xfinity Series Playoffs, which open next Friday at Bristol Motor Speedway.
Kligerman outlasted Riley Herbst, who entered the race with a one-point advantage for the final Playoff spot but ran afoul of the left rear of Kligerman’s car after a restart in Stage 2.
Nemechek did all he could to overtake Austin Hill for the Regular Season Championship. He won the first and second stages and beat runner-up Brandon Jones to the finish line by a whopping 7.521 seconds. Hill ran fifth to secure the regular-season title by five points after leading by 23 entering the race.
After Herbst had trouble, the only circumstance that could have kept Kligerman out of the Playoffs was a victory by Jones. Nemechek would have none of that.
“(Crew chief) Ben (Beshore) and all the guys made the right adjustments all day,” said Nemechek, who won for the second time at Kansas and the eighth time in his career. “They brought a really fast hot rod… Overall, just super pumped, super ecstatic.
“I’m looking forward to getting the Playoffs started next week at Bristol. We came in here trying to get the Regular Season Championship. I thought that we were going to have a 60-point day this weekend, and that’s what we did. We controlled what we could control. We did everything that we possibly could.
“So, let’s go to the Playoffs—I’m ready.”
Sheldon Creed finished third, 11.881 seconds behind Nemechek, followed by Kligerman and Hill.
“I was definitely the biggest John Hunter fan on the last run there,” quipped Kligerman, who finished 25 points ahead of Herbst for the final Playoff spot in a battle that featured substantial swings throughout the season. “I’m really proud of this whole Big Machine Racing team… We executed at a high level.
“With what I’ve seen do for the last 12 weeks, I felt like, if we could just get in the Playoffs, and we bring this going forward, we’re going to race for a championship.”
Just short of midway through Stage 2, much of the suspense disappeared from the race for the final Playoff spot. On a restart on Lap 65, Kligerman had difficulty getting his No. 48 Chevrolet into gear. Creed, immediately behind Kligerman, ran into the back of the 48 and moved to the right.
Herbst, who started two cars behind his rival for the final berth, clipped the left rear of Kligerman’s car with the right front of the No. 98 Ford, cutting his right front tire and damaging the quarter panel.
Herbst lost two laps on pit road changing tires, but he regained both circuits in short order, taking a wave-around at the end of Stage 2 and as the beneficiary during the eighth caution for a dramatic Lap 97 wreck at the front of the field involving Creed, Sammy Smith, pole winner Justin Allgaier and Jones.
Back on the lead lap, Herbst charged through the field and reached the ninth position, but another flat right front tire forced him to pit road on Lap 127 and ended his chances to secure a Playoff berth.
As it turned out, Daniel Hemric clinched the 11th of 12 Playoff spots by starting the race, leaving Kligerman and Herbst to battle for the last one. They join Nemechek, Hill, Allgaier, Cole Custer, Sam Mayer, Chandler Smith, Creed, Josh Berry, Sammy Smith and Jeb Burton, all of whom had qualified for the Playoffs before Saturday’s race.
2023 NASCAR Xfinity Series Playoff Field
John Hunter Nemechek, Toyota, 2,049 points
Austin Hill, Chevrolet, 2,039
Justin Allgaier, Chevrolet, 2,026
Cole Custer, Ford, 2,017
Sam Mayer, Chevrolet, 2,015
Chandler Smith, Chevrolet, 2,009
Josh Berry, Chevrolet, 2009
Sheldon Creed, 2,008
Sammy Smith, Toyota, 2,006
Jeb Burton, Chevrolet, 2006
Daniel Hemric, Chevrolet, 2,003
Parker Kligerman, Chevrolet, 2002
Though Hill secured the regular-season title, he feels his Richard Childress Racing team has work to do to match Nemechek’s pace in the upcoming seven Playoff races.
“Just happy that we were able to bring home the Regular Season Championship, get the extra 15 bonus points—which is huge,” Hill said. “But we’ve got to go to work. We’ve got to be better. The 20 (Nemechek) was the class of the field all day.
“Really kind of stunk up the show there, so we’ve got to go back to the drawing board, figure out what we’ve got to do better for next time.”
NASCAR Xfinity Series Race - Kansas Lottery 300
1. (7) John Hunter Nemechek, Toyota, 200.
2. (4) Brandon Jones, Chevrolet, 200.
3. (16) Sheldon Creed, Chevrolet, 200.
4. (15) Parker Kligerman, Chevrolet, 200.
5. (9) Austin Hill, Chevrolet, 200.
6. (6) Josh Berry, Chevrolet, 200.
7. (10) Brett Moffitt, Ford, 200.
8. (18) Derek Kraus, Chevrolet, 200.
9. (11) Joe Graf Jr., Toyota, 200.
10. (31) Kaz Grala, Toyota, 200.
11. (26) Parker Retzlaff #, Chevrolet, 200.
12. (17) Jeb Burton, Chevrolet, 199.
13. (24) Josh Williams, Chevrolet, 199.
14. (20) Connor Mosack, Toyota, 199.
15. (21) Jeremy Clements, Chevrolet, 199.
16. (37) Mason Massey, Ford, 199.
17. (23) Ryan Ellis, Chevrolet, 199.
18. (1) Justin Allgaier, Chevrolet, 199.
19. (27) Matt Mills(i), Chevrolet, 198.
20. (29) Kyle Sieg, Ford, 198.
21. (25) Dawson Cram, Chevrolet, 198.
22. (38) CJ McLaughlin, Ford, 198.
23. (8) Riley Herbst, Ford, 198.
24. (36) Joey Gase, Toyota, 198.
25. (34) Garrett Smithley, Chevrolet, 198.
26. (28) Leland Honeyman, Ford, 197.
27. (32) Anthony Alfredo, Chevrolet, 197.
28. (33) Brennan Poole, Chevrolet, 197.
29. (22) Rajah Caruth(i), Chevrolet, 197.
30. (14) Ryan Sieg, Ford, 196.
31. (30) Nick Leitz(i), Ford, 194.
32. (12) Chandler Smith #, Chevrolet, 186.
33. (35) Blaine Perkins #, Chevrolet, Brakes, 140.
34. (5) Daniel Hemric, Chevrolet, 120.
35. (2) Sammy Smith #, Toyota, Accident, 97.
36. (3) Cole Custer, Ford, Accident, 60.
37. (13) Sam Mayer, Chevrolet, Accident, 20.
38. (19) Kyle Weatherman, Chevrolet, Accident, 19.
Average Speed of Race Winner: 109.256 mph.
Time of Race: 2 Hrs, 44 Mins, 45 Secs. Margin of Victory: 7.521 Seconds.
Caution Flags: 10 for 49 laps.
Lead Changes: 7 among 5 drivers.
Lap Leaders: J. Allgaier 1-40;J. Nemechek 41-48;C. Custer 49-51;J. Nemechek 52-78;S. Smith # 79;J. Nemechek 80-93;B. Jones 94-95;J. Nemechek 96-200.
Leaders Summary (Driver, Times Lead, Laps Led): John Hunter Nemechek 4 times for 154 laps; Justin Allgaier 1 time for 40 laps; Cole Custer 1 time for 3 laps; Brandon Jones 1 time for 2 laps; Sammy Smith # 1 time for 1 lap.
Stage #1 Top Ten: 20,00,7,9,18,48,21,2,98,11
Stage #2 Top Ten: 20,18,7,8,21,2,48,11,31,25