By Seth Eggert, Associate Editor
A runner-up finish in Saturday’s Kansas Lottery 300 just wasn’t enough for Brandon Jones to make the NASCAR Xfinity Series Playoffs.
A spin late in Stage 2 and a wreck on the first lap of the final Stage put the No. 9 Menards / Nibco Chevrolet Camaro SS behind at Kansas Speedway. Despite being down a set of Goodyear tires to their competition, Jones surged back to the front of the field.
In the 35-lap run between the wreck he was swept up in and a spin by Rajah Caruth, Jones climbed back into the top-10. However, entering the 1.5-mile track nearly 80-points below the cutline, only a victory would secure the Atlanta, GA native a playoff berth.
When the race went back green, Jones restarted in third. After making quick work of Austin Hill, the Team Chevy driver closed in on race leader John Hunter Nemechek. He cut the deficit down to just over one second. But the car started to get looser and looser. Nemechek crept away, leaving Jones to take the checkered flag in second, 7.5 seconds behind.
“I did get a little too loose again,” Jones explained. “I think that’s the way the trim was building and typically it goes the other way here, which is I’ve always fought just getting a little too tight really. So, I was wanting to start a little bit loose, but I think it just was whatever your balance was, that’s what you migrated and got worse.
“Then the rubber built really, really thick today as well. Sometimes you don’t see that as much here, but it got really dark at this racetrack today, that kind of had a little bit to do with the balance handling issues.”
Without the win, Jones missed making the Xfinity Series post-season. It’s just the second time that a full-time JR Motorsports (JRM) driver has missed the playoffs, Michael Annett missed the post-season in 2018. While he didn’t make the playoffs, Jones still views his inaugural season with JRM as a positive.
Strong runs like that at Kansas are both a confidence and a momentum booster for driver and crew alike. Although he didn’t win, Jones felt like the race gave him and his team the reassurance that they needed.
“I think that just having good solid runs is big for team camaraderie,” Jones said. “I think it’s big for this organization. I know I say it like a bunch, but we’ve just been so up and down on our finishes, so it’s just nice to kind of get that turned back around and kind of not really prove to everybody, but just reassurance that we’re still there, we still got it. I think that that’s what that does for the team and for myself as well going forward.”
The second-place finish was just the third top-five for Jones this season. It was also the 39th of his Xfinity career.
Now outside of the playoffs, Jones can play the role of spoiler. Since the NASCAR added playoffs to the Xfinity Series, a non-Playoff eligible driver has won 20 times. The most recent non-Playoff eligible driver to win was Ty Gibbs at Kansas in 2021.
The first chance that Jones can play spoiler will be in the Food City 300 at Bristol Motor Speedway. In 13 starts at ‘The Last Great Colosseum’ the 26-year-old has three top-five and six top-10 finishes. His best finish was a runner-up in last year’s event.
The Food City 300 is scheduled for Friday, September 15, at 7:30 p.m. ET on USA Network. The race will also be broadcast on the Performance Racing Network and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio, channel 90.