Bottom Four: NXS Charlotte

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By Caleb Whisler, Staff Writer

Going into each elimination race in the Playoffs, Kickin’ The Tires will analyze the drivers on the bubble and the drivers below the cutoff line in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series, NASCAR XFINITY Series, and NASCAR Camping World Truck Series. This week, we highlight the NASCAR XFINITY Series elimination race at Charlotte Motor Speedway. 


Track: Charlotte Motor Speedway
Drive for the Cure 300 presented by Blue Cross Blue Shield North Carolina

Bubble Driver: Ryan Reed

Bottom Four: Brendan Gaughan, Michael Annett, Blake Koch, Jeremy Clements


Radio: Performance Racing Network/SiriusXM NASCAR Radio

Time: 3 p.m. ET

Following Dover International Speedway, Ryan Reed found himself on the bubble as the XFINITY series heads into the first elimination race of the playoffs at Charlotte Motor Speedway in the Drive for the Cure 300. Ryan Reed comes into the event sitting on the bubble in the playoff standings.  Reed will be making his ninth start. He has never finished lower the 19th during his time at Charlotte. Seven of his eight previous starts have been 15th or better. Reed is looking at Charlotte has a place where he cannot make mistakes being only two points to the good.

“Charlotte is obviously a huge race for us.  Being a cutoff race and currently only being two points to the good.  It is super important to be fast and not make any mistakes.  Charlotte is a good track for us and another 1.5-mile track and our 1.5-mile program is where we are the strongest,” said Reed.

For Brendan Gaughan, he has to gain two points on Ryan Reed if he wants to continue on into the next round of the playoffs. Gaughan has 11 starts in the XFINITY series at Charlotte. His best finish is second, with three top-10s. Earlier this season at Charlotte, Gaughan finished in the ninth position.

“Charlotte Motor Speedway is just a great track. It’s got a lot of character, a lot of bumps that make it unique and fun to race on as a driver. Our recent history there has been good, as well as during past years in my career. I’m excited to be headed to the track again this weekend with the new car model I tested out back in Kentucky,” said Gaughan. “It ran really well for me, so I have high expectations for this race. We gained points last weekend after a great effort in Dover. We’re just two points outside the cut-off line. Two points, that’s nothing. The boys and I just have to keep our cool this weekend, gain two more points and move on to the Round of 8.”

Going into Charlotte, Michael Annett sits seven points behind the cutoff position. In 11 starts at Charlotte, Annett has one two top-10 finishes, which have come in the fall race. Those top-10 finishes came in 2012 and 2013. Annett and his team are focused on the task at hand this weekend.

“It all comes down to this weekend at Charlotte. We know what we have to do, and Jason (Stockert, crew chief) and my No. 5 TMC Transportation team are focused solely on that,” says Annett. “The run at Dover was what we needed, and now we have to go out and finish ahead of the 16 (Ryan Reed) and the 62 (Brendan Gaughan) and see where that gets us in terms of advancing to the Round of 8. Obviously, it’s really important that we pull out all the stops and get to the Round of 8, and that’s what we’re going to do.”

Blake Koch currently sits 12 points behind the cut line going into the weekend at Charlotte. His best finish at the 1.5-mile facility was 12th in 2016 and his best start was sixth, both coming in the 2016 fall race. This will be Koch’s fourth start with Kaulig Racing at Charlotte.

“It’s a big weekend. It’s the first cutoff race, 12 points back. Last year, we did it, we advanced. This year, we need to turn it up to put pressure on those guys and make the most out of it. We are working as hard as we possibly can. We are looking forward to a strong weekend. We are just going to give it our best shot. This year, we will see what happens,” says Koch.

Sitting 20 points back from the cut-off line, it is a must win situation for Jeremy Clements. Clements has an average finish of 21.8 at Charlotte. His best finish came in May of 2015, when he finished 13th. He has collected eight top-20 finishes in 18 starts.

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