LAS VEGAS – As Riley Herbst earned a hometown win in Las Vegas, the playoff standings saw plenty of movement Saturday.
Playoff drivers had their party spoiled as nobody clinched their Championship Four ticket but there were some winners and losers.
John Hunter Nemechek
The driver of the No. 20 car extended his advantage to the cutline from +35 to 47 points.
Nemechek had a relaxed day, finishing second and collecting stage points in both.
While the job is far from complete this round, Nemechek’s confidence remains very high heading to Homestead.
“This round, I thought, was gonna be really good to us,” Nemechek said. “We’ve shown speed throughout the year at mile-and-a-half [track]s. I really like Homestead so it should be a really good place for us.”
In the spring, Nemechek also won at Martinsville, which will close the Round of 8.
Next season, Nemechek will get his second full-time Cup Series gig, driving the No. 42 car for Legacy Motor Club.
When it was all said and done, a third-place finish capped off a productive day for Cole Custer.
The No. 00 car added a playoff point to his name, thanks to winning stage one. A second-place finish in the second stage kept Custer near the front of the field in the caution-free third stage.
“It got loose on the long run as the run went there. I was like ‘the track’s gonna tighten up eventually,’ and it didn’t. So I kinda just stayed free the whole time. Wish we had one more run there maybe but I’m just so pumped for Riley,” Custer said.
Custer finished 19.493 seconds behind his teammate in third. Still, it brought him from -2 points to the cutline to +15.
Heading to Homestead-Miami Speedway, Cole Custer should be thrilled. He has a win and three top-five finishes there.
The No. 2 car was nowhere to be found Saturday.
Coming into the day -12 to the cutline, Creed dug his hole even deeper. He fell to -41, now last among the playoff drivers.
The poor run comes just days after Creed found out he won’t return to Richard Childress Racing in 2024
While Creed isn’t in must-win territory, yet, the next two races may be an uphill battle for the No. 2 car.
Creed only has one Xfinity Series start at Homestead, where he finished 17th. He does have a top-five finish in three races at Martinsville.
Already -12 to the cutline heading into Las Vegas, Sammy Smith now has a lot of work to get into the championship.
Smith, the winner of the spring race at Phoenix, now has a 35-point hole to climb out of to secure a Championship Four spot. He finished 17th on what wasn’t even an awful Saturday for the young driver.
A third-place effort in stage one and a ninth-place finish in stage two had the 19-year-old in a prime position to make up some ground in the final stage.
That was until a loose wheel derailed the No. 18 team’s day. Smith pitted on lap 143 but then pitted again five laps later to address the issue.
Next week will be Smith’s first time ever racing at Homestead at any level of his NASCAR career.
As for the cutoff race at Martinsville, he does hold one top-five in two starts at the paperclip.
The NASCAR Xfinity Series now turns its attention to Homestead, where the final 1.5-mile track on the 2023 schedule gets the green flag shortly after 3 p.m. ET next Saturday, October 21.