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Auto Racing

NASCAR Xfinity: Armstrong's best shot comes up short

JOLIET – Dakoda Armstrong entered Saturday’s NASCAR Xfinity Series race at Chicagoland Speedway on the wrong side of the playoff grid.

Armstrong, who started 20th Saturday, was the first driver outside of the 12-man playoff field when the green flag dropped in Saturday’s TheHouse.com 300.

The Indiana native ran in the top 20 for most of the day and ended up finishing the 200-lap race in 16th.

But the 16th-place finish wasn’t enough as Armstrong failed to secure a spot in the playoff.

“The car was better than we’ve been on mile-and-a-halfs,” Armstrong said after the race. “We still got a ways to go, but as good as the other two [drivers] we were racing ran, the only way we were going to advance [to the playoffs] was to win.

“We just didn’t quite have that speed – still looked good. [This] year we made a lot of improvements, had some good runs. [On Saturday], we just didn’t have the speed, but we really hurt ourselves the last two weeks just having problems and falling off our back. But it’s all good; the team never gave up, and we just got caught up short.”

Armstrong, 26, said he thought his would be one of the few teams to make it into the postseason, but being unable to sneak into the playoff field is just motivation for him.

“We put a lot of work into it, and I felt like we would be one of the smaller teams to make it,” he said. “It just didn’t quite happen, so we’ll just keep working.”

Armstrong has two top-5 and three top-10 finishes this season, which is an increase in his production from last season.

In 2015, Armstrong recorded one top-5 and one top-10 finish.

“I’ve been here last year where I was close and didn’t make it [into the playoff], so getting kind of used to it,” he said. “Hopefully, we can change that around here, but it was still a lot better season than last year, so that was a positive.”

Coming from a small race team that doesn’t get a lot of testing opportunities, Armstrong said the remaining seven races in the 2017 season will help his team prepare for next season.

“We normally come to the track pretty similar of what we’ve been doing all year,” he said. “It’s hard for us to go outside our comfort box just because we don’t have a lot of time with practice and all that. So, it gives us these couple of races here to work on next year.”

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