The so-called “Big 3” of Christopher Bell, Cole Custer, and Tyler Reddick have dominated the 2019 NASCAR Xfinity Series. Custer and Reddick made more news off the track than on it on Saturday.
And none of them managed to win the 19th annual Kansas Lottery 300 at Kansas Speedway.
Brandon Jones, 22, took advantage of a chaotic final 16 laps to pick up his first career Xfinity Series victory in his 134th start. He’s also only the fourth driver this season outside the Big 3 to get a victory.
“I’ve been a winner in a lot of different series,” Jones said. “This is the biggest one I’ve ever had, man. This is huge, and it makes it better that we’ve struggled so much to get to this point, and we’ve had a lot of junk luck, really, that’s put us out of a lot of these races. ... I know the first one is the toughest, so hopefully that’s a good sign and there’s going to be more to come.”
Jones was still celebrating on the track when post-race drama started on pit row between Custer and Reddick.
Custer took exception to Reddick getting into him on the final restart. He walked up to Reddick after the race, put a hand on his shoulder, and used some R-rated language to admonish Reddick.
Reddick responded by putting his hands back on Custer, and it quickly devolved into a massive scuffle between the drivers and their crews.
“I was just frustrated that he can’t keep his car on the bottom, and he runs up into us on the wall,” Custer said. “He wants to wreck cars and put them in the wall from time to time, that’s fine, but when it affects me I’m not going to be very happy with it. I just went over to talk to him and say that, and I put my hand on him and he went berserk…. I guess you don’t want to do that to Tyler.”
Reddick, still obviously amped, explained his side.
“He put a hand on me, I put a hand on him back. That’s just how it’s going to be if we’re going to have a conversation that way. I had a fight there with some people, and it was a little bit of fun,” Reddick said. “Heat of the moment, we’re (ticked) off, and I’m sure we’ll talk about it soon.”
Nothing ultimately changed with the Big 3 in the points race. They entered Saturday’s first race in the Round of 8 in the order of Bell, Custer, Reddick, and that’s how they left Kansas Speedway.
It all could’ve been very different.
The craziness started with 16 laps to go. Playoff driver Chase Briscoe seemed prime to throw a wrench in the Big 3 narrative by winning and automatically advancing to the final four at the season’s last race in Homestead, Fla.
That was before Garrett Smithley, out of contention and several laps down, slid up the track and cut off Briscoe, who was trying to pass him on the high side. The incident also took out Bell, dropping him from a potential top-two finish to 11th.
Briscoe eventually finished third but will still likely need a win to keep his championship hopes alive.
That set the stage for two white-knuckle restarts in the final 10 laps. And it was Jones — whose playoff hopes ended last week in Dover with a crash on the first lap — there to take advantage.
“It cleaned up at the end for us, it all came into play, and that’s what you’ve got to do with one of these,” Jones said.