The NASCAR XFINITY Series is searching to find it’s own identity in comparison racing divisions, and one way is through their unique schedule.
While the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series has only run two road courses a season over the past couple of years (till the Charlotte Motor Speedway road course addition this year), the XFINITY Series runs three courses within the span of four events, slotting a race at Bristol Motor Speedway in the midst.
The addition of right turns to the schedule add a new level of excitement, as highlighted by close finishes, and the possibility of racing in the rain. As a result, these events could also provide a shake-up towards finalizing the 12 drivers for the Chase this season.
If someone can secure a victory, they could lock themselves in with the other winners – William Byron, Justin Allgaier, and Ryan Reed – to become the fourth seed. Though the chances seem slim as the past seven events have only been won by a pair of series regulars – Regan Smith at Mid-Ohio in 2015, and Chris Buescher at Mid-Ohio in 2014 – due to road course aces taking the other victories.
Outside of a win, though, there could be a shift if the right amount of points can be gained, though. Currently, positions nine through 18th are within 100 points of each other. With 60 points up for grabs on a weekly basis, if you can win all three stages, anything is possible with seven races remaining until the Chase.
Although Dakoda Armstrong and Blake Koch currently sit ninth and 10th in the standings, 20 or more points ahead of Brendan Gaughan for the 12th and final qualified position, there could be cause for concern for both parties entering this stretch. Neither driver posted a top-10 in the three road course finishes, including a placing outside of the top-20 for both.
Michael Annett is 11th, just 18 points ahead of Gaughan for 12th, and will make his first XFINITY Series start road course start since 2014. Neither event went well that season with a pair of 22nd-place finishes.
While the competitors in front of him have struggled to turn both left and right, Gaughan is in a position to gain ground against them in the coming weeks. He finished in the top-eight in all three road course events last season, including a runner-up at Road America; he also picked up the victory there in 2014;
If Gaughan slips up at all, though, there could be cause for concern. J.J Yeley is only 14 markers behind him in 13th and posted a top-10 last season at Road America. Behind Yeley, though, the worry decreases as the next three drivers within 56 points, failed to post a road course top-10 last season.
Even with the statistics laid out, a shakeup could happen beyond what’s predicted as a driver could play the perfect fuel strategy and gain ground, stealing a victory by surprise. Throughout the events, crew chiefs will be trying to judge securing valuable stage points, while stretching their fuel right to make it to the end first.
So although the XFINITY Series Chase is just about set in stone with who to watch this season, these three races could produce a surprise mix up.
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