The primary NASCAR Xfinity Series championship favorites used their respective mulligans on Saturday afternoon at Kansas Speedway.
Christopher Bell and Justin Allgaier entered the Round of 8 opener atop the championship standings but left at risk of missing the Championship Race when a crash involving the two shook-up the standings with just Texas and Phoenix remaining before the finale.
Allgaier broke loose in Turn 2 of the first lap, sliding up into Bell, with the two collecting several other drivers into the melee – including playoff contenders Austin Cindric and Cole Custer. Allgaier, Bell and Cindric were forced into the garage.
Michael Annett, Chase Briscoe, Ross Chastain, Specner Gallagher and Ryan Truex were the other non-contenders caught up in the incident.
"I got super loose on the bottom," Allgaier said of what initiated the contact with Bell. "We hadn’t been loose all weekend so that was kind of a weird sensation for me. Not the way we wanted to start the race today in Kansas especially in the second round of the playoffs."
Bell was caught off guard too.
"I didn’t really get to see anything, I just felt a lot," Bell said. "I don’t know. Normally whenever you’re up front, you’re in the safest spot you can be, but just didn’t get a very good launch and the side by side with (Allgaier) and it just didn’t work out."
Bell and Allgaier finished 37th and 38th respectively. However, they entered the weekend with a tremendous amount of bonus points, allowing Bell to stay one point above the cutoff and Allgaier just five points below it.
"That’s the beauty of this format," Bell said. "NASCAR has done a really great job of giving us something to race for during the regular season. With the six wins we’ve accumulated a fair share of bonus points that can hopefully get us through this and I still expect to be able to go win a couple of the last three races. Hopefully we can win, but if we can’t then we’ve done our homework on accumulating those points and we’ll point our way through."
Cindric and Custer are not as fortunate and likely face must-win situations over the next two races to compete for a championship at Homestead-Miami Speedway. Custer is 23 points under the cutoff and Cindric is 43 points back.
"I have to win one of the next two races but we have a pretty good notebook since the 22 car won both Texas and Phoenix in the spring," Cindric said. "I have a lot of confidence going into those races."
A power steering issue as a result of the wreck plagued Custer but he battled back to finish 26th and leaving him hopeful that he could still point his way into Miami.
"I don't think we're in a must-win yet," Custer said after the race. "Out team battled hard all day to get us as many points as possible. We'll see after Texas whether or not Phoenix is must-win."
The No. 7 gets into the No. 20, and then all hell breaks loose. #NASCARPlayoffs pic.twitter.com/pAP7WrB0Dt
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