KANSAS CITY, Kan. — Chase Elliott insisted the weekly routine hasn’t changed a bit within the Hendrick Motorsports garages, the four teams swapping information and ideas as if they were preparing for any other race.

Only their race Sunday at Kansas Speedway isn’t just any other race.

Especially for three of the team’s four drivers.

Elliott is joined by Alex Bowman and William Byron outside of the cutline for the Round of 8 in NASCAR’s version of the playoffs. Each still could mathematically advance based on points, but realistically they all face must-win situations to avoid elimination.

“Obviously one of us could make it and the rest of us couldn’t, so there’s definitely more at stake,” said Elliott, who was the only Hendrick driver to advance to the semifinals last season. “I can’t bow out of our competition meeting and I don’t think any of the other guys would. We’ll continue to do our parts and however we use that to our advantage is up to us.”

Kyle Larson and Ryan Blaney already won to lock up places in the next round, which begins at Martinsville. Denny Hamlin, Martin Truex Jr., Kyle Busch and Kevin Harvick are reasonably safe based on points, leaving Penske Racing teammates Brad Keselowski and defending Cup Series champ Joey Logano as the most vulnerable to falling below the cut line.

Bowman is 20 points behind Keselowski and 18 back of Logano, while Elliott is another four points adrift. Byron is five more back, behind Stewart-Haas Racing’s Clint Bowyer in the standings.

“I think this is the toughest Round of 12 that I’ve been part of in my four years for sure,” Elliott said. “All 12 teams and drivers are good that are left right now. We knew coming into this round it wasn’t going to be easy, and it was going to be tough to move on, and here we are.”

Elliott qualified 14th on Saturday, two spots ahead of Bowman, while Byron will start 25th. But it’s hard to put too much stock into qualifying efforts because there’s no practice before the race, and many teams eschewed raw speed for a car that will handle better when it matters.

XFINITY: Brandon Jones raced to his first career Series victory at Kansas Speedway after a lapped car wrecked what was shaping up to be an entertaining duel between playoff contenders Chase Briscoe and Christopher Bell.

Fellow playoff contenders Cole Custer and Tyler Reddick got into a pit-road melee after getting out of their cars. Custer was upset at the way Reddick raced him in the closing laps of the first race in the Round of 8 in NASCAR’s version of the playoffs.

Reddick finished second and Briscoe rallied to finish third, while playoff drivers Michael Annett and Justin Allgaier rounded out the top five. Custer was 11th with Bell right behind him.

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