Dakoda Armstrong falls just shy of XFINITY Series playoff berth

Logan Whitton / Harrelson Photography Inc.

By Aaron Bearden, Motorsports Editor

JOLIET, Ill. — Dakoda Armstrong emerged from his No. 28 Toyota, all alone on the grid as teams whirled by. He wrapped his arms around his head and looked down at pit road – a mixture of frustration and exhaustion seeping into his facial expression as he continued to sweat.

For the second-straight year, Armstrong had arrived at Chicagoland Speedway in search of a miracle to make the playoffs on points.

For the second-straight year, he’d fallen just short.

Armstrong entered the weekend 25 points behind Brendan Gaughan for the final spot in the NASCAR XFINITY Series playoffs on points, but the Hoosier’s 16th-place run in Saturday’s TheHouse.com 300 wasn’t enough to close the gap.

Struggling with a No. 28 car for JGL Racing that lacked the speed of the big teams, Armstrong fought with all he could to contend, overcoming a speeding penalty – Armstrong claimed to just be “trying to get all I could,” – and a stretch where he was two laps down to rise into the top 15 late in the race.

The car wasn’t bad. It just wasn’t enough.

“The car was better than we’ve been on mile-and-a-halves, but we’ve still got a ways to go,” Armstrong said after the race. “As good as the other two we were racing ran, the only way we were going to advance was to win. We just didn’t quite have that speed.”

Coming to terms with another playoff-less year, Armstrong searched for the positives.

“Still a good year,” he said. “We made a lot of improvements, had some good runs. Today we just kind of didn’t have the speed we needed, but we really hurt ourselves the last two weeks having problems and falling that far back. All good, the team never gave up and we just fell a couple short.”

A trip to the postseason seemed feasible, if not likely just weeks ago. Armstrong sat well inside of the playoff grid for the majority of the season, dropping outside of the top 10 in points in Aug. at Road America.

Armstrong maintained a position in the top 12 in points through the regular season finale, but was eliminated due to the surprise victory from Jeremy Clements at Road America. Clements’ first XFINITY Series victory didn’t just guarantee the South Carolinian into the playoffs – since it came from outside of the top 12, it also eliminated one position on points.

Armstrong was the lone driving eliminated by the win, which meant he was left to fend off frustration for the second-straight season.

“I’ve been here last year where I was close and didn’t make it, so I’m getting kind of used to it,” Armstrong said. “Hopefully we can change that around.”

Their playoff hopes dashed, Armstrong and JGL Racing will use the rest of the season to learn for next year.

“Being a smaller team we don’t get a lot of testing as far as what we change,” Armstrong said. “We normally come to the track pretty similar to what we’ve been doing all year. It’s hard for us to get outside of our comfort box just because we don’t have a lot of time with practice and all that. (The elimination) gives us these few races to work on next year, so that’s what we’ll work on doing.”

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