Saturday’s motors: Brandon Jones wins overtime NASCAR Xfinity race at Kansas Speedway

Dave Skretta
Associated Press

Kansas City, Kan. – Brandon Jones must have learned something during two stifling Truck Series races at Kansas Speedway.

He knew exactly what to do when he stepped in his Xfinity ride.

The 23-year-old Jones came roaring around the outside of Austin Cindric on the second attempt at a green-white-checkered finish Saturday, then won the race to the finish line for his third career win. Jones also won earlier this year at Phoenix and last year’s race at Kansas, though it might have been the last 24 hours that were more helpful.

Brandon Jones does a burnout after winning a NASCAR Xfinity Series race at Kansas Speedway.

With no practice or qualifying, many Xfinity drivers hadn’t been on the track this weekend. But Jones ran the Truck Series doubleheader on Friday night and earlier Saturday, giving him a little extra knowledge that he put to good use.

“It’s been a long two days. I feel exhausted. The heat is a big thing here,” said Jones, who did a celebratory in front of the grandstand, which stood empty due to the COVID-19 pandemic. “Looking forward to celebrating back in victory lane.”

Cindric had won both of the early stages and looked like he would tie Sam Ard’s series record with his fourth consecutive Xfinity win. Instead, he wound up second after leading 131 of 175 laps in an otherwise dominant performance.

“Man, so close,” he said. “Obviously, a great points day and now we’ll just have to go to Road America.”

Harrison Burton was third after it appeared he, too, had the win locked up. Burton had built a huge lead over Cindric with three laps to go after a long green-flag run, but a caution flag caused everyone to pit. Burton’s team had a much slower tire change than its Team Penske rival, and that put him playing catch-up when the race went to overtime.

Burton wound up trapped behind Ryan Sieg, who chose not to pit and was on old tires, and never got a chance to race for the lead on the first try. He got a do-over when a wreck occurred in Turn 1 deep in the field on the restart, but Burton still couldn’t get enough momentum on the second attempt at a finish to push to the front.

Sieg’s gamble for track position paid off and he finished fourth. Ross Chastain, who also ran the Truck Series race Friday night but gave up his ride to Travis Pastrana on Saturday, rounded out the top 5.

“It was a huge struggle on the restarts,” Sieg said. “I messed up on the first one and luckily I could hang on the second one. It was a great call. We were probably going to be 10th or 11th but it was a good call there at the end.”

Cindric spent the entire race running near the front, just as he did in sweeping the doubleheader at Kentucky and winning last week at Texas, where Kyle Busch had his car disqualified and that moved him up one spot into first place.

The 21-year-old Cindric started outside Row 2 but quickly moved around Jones for the lead, and he wound up leading 30 of the 40 laps in winning the stage. Cindric also dominated the second stage, though Jones gave him a run in the closing laps, to secure another playoff point that could help him navigate the postseason.

“Every time this car shows up at a race track,” he said, “I’m ready to go and ready to contend for a win.”

The fourth consecutive 1 1/2-mile track for the Xfinity Series was a challenge all day for Noah Gragson, who was third in points behind a pair of wins but couldn’t get his car right. Gragson wound up finishing 15th.

Chastain and Michael Annett, who started on the pole, had long top-10 streaks in jeopardy when they were running ninth and 10th with 20 laps to go. Chastain ran his streak to 10 and Annett finished eighth to extend his to six.

Drivers take the green flag at the start of a NASCAR Truck Series auto race Saturday at Kansas Speedway in Kansas City, Kan.

Crafton ends Trucks drought

Matt Crafton finally ended a three-year winless streak when the three-time and reigning series champ held off Christian Eckes over the final 20 laps to win the second race of a Truck Series doubleheader at Kansas Speedway. It was his first victory since Eldora in July 2017, a frustrating stretch off 67 races and oh-so many near misses.

“It was very sweet. Not a lot of give-up in these guys, no doubt,” Crafton said before a burnout in front of the empty grandstands. “We came back from the whole pandemic, we were fast but we had no results to show for it. We led laps at Charlotte and we just had horrendous races, four races in a row. But we’re back now.”

Crafton stayed out of a slew of late-race cautions on Saturday to find himself at the front on the final restart. The 19-year-old Eckes, chasing his first career Truck Series win, managed to trim a deficit of more than a second to one-tenth with two laps to go, but he couldn’t make his last opening stick. He wound up cruising across in second place.

“Just what a comeback for our team, We stunk yesterday. I can’t sugarcoat it,” Eckes said. “We were terrible. We worked last night and today to get better. We were just perfect at the end.”

Almost perfect. Just like Eckes almost made it to victory lane for the first time for the second straight week.

“I mean, it’s not as much anger as last week at Texas,” he said, “but at the same aspect it’s a little disappointing. But it’s hard to be disappointed how we ran yesterday and how we came back today.

Grant Enfinger was third, Tanner Gray fourth and Ben Rhodes fifth on a stifling afternoon under the sun. It was about 90 degrees when the trucks rolled off the starting grid, one day after the heat during the late-afternoon opening race resulted in five drivers – including Crafton – getting treated afterward at the infield care center.

Maurice Petty dies, 81

Maurice Petty, part of a stock car racing dynasty that includes father Lee and brother Richard and the first engine builder to be inducted into the NASCAR Hall of Fame, died Saturday. He was 81.

Petty’s family did not disclose the cause of death. No funeral arrangements have been announced.

While other family members were acclaimed for their ability behind the wheel, Maurice Petty earned the nickname “The Chief” for his ability to turn a wrench. He helped his family win 198 races and seven championships in NASCAR’s premier series, and he also built engines that carried Hall of Famer Buddy Baker, Jim Paschal and Pete Hamilton to victory.

Maurice Petty was born March 27, 1939, in Level Cross, North Carolina. He would tail his father to the track while growing up, and his mechanical know-how soon played an integral part in Lee Petty winning 54 races and three championships.

He made 26 starts in the NASCAR Cup Series from 1960-64, finishing in the top 5 seven times with 16 top-10 runs. But he quickly decided to focus on what happened under the hood rather than what happened behind the wheel, and that proved to be a good move for his older brother, who would rely on his engines during his period of dominance.

Richard, who would take on the nickname “The King,” won his first championship along with The Chief when he drove a Plymouth to the 1964 title. They won again in 1967, back-to-back titles in 1970 and ‘71, and added three more before the 1970s drew to an end. The seven titles remains tied with Dale Earnhardt and Jimmie Johnson for the most in history.