The first five races are in the books for the XFINITY Series, and so far, it hasn’t been kind to its regulars.
Four of those events have been dominated and won by full-time Monster NASCAR Cup Series drivers. While Tyler Reddick was victorious at Daytona, they led 115 of 143 laps in that race.
Now, it seems the men of NASCAR’s second-tier have struggled in 2018. That’s not the case. Yes, they haven’t been winning races but, there are still regulars finding themselves with impressive starts to the year. Here are a few that have slipped under the radar.
There are only two drivers in any of NASCAR’s top three series that have finished every race in the top-10. Johnny Sauter in the Camping World Truck Series, and Sadler in the XFINITY Series.
The 42-year-old veteran, coming off a season where he was close to his first championship, hasn’t suffered any setback from his disappointment last November. Despite starting in the top-10 once this year, he only finished worse than fifth once, Phoenix (ninth).
As the Dash 4 Cash program starts next month, expect Sadler to remain a contender for wins during the four-race stretch, as he has been on a weekly basis.
Yes, Reddick won the season-opener at Daytona which may make it seem like he’s not an “underrated” type of driver, but his move to JR Motorsports has seen more success than just a win.
After all, taking over the No. 9 is taking over one of the best rides the series has. Look at the fanfare that surrounded Chase Elliott and William Byron after being in the seat (both of whom won the championship in their first year).
Despite having big shoes to fill, Reddick has had the almost perfect transition with the team. He’s second in points, has four top-10’s, and is locked in the playoffs, something no other regular can say right now.
While GMS Racing has proven to be a dominant force in trucks, the transition up the ladder hasn’t been a smooth one. Last year in their first full-time season, the team had only one top-10 and failed to make the playoffs.It seems 2018, on the other hand, has gotten off on a much better foot.
With Gallagher returning as the driver, GMS already has two top-10’s, and, has zero starts or finishes outside the top-15. Solid runs put together early in the season could prove to be vital later, as they look to be a part of the title hunt.
In a move not a lot of people expected during silly season, Grala left the truck series after one successful season with the eventual championship winning organization, GMS, to move a lesser-funded XFINITY Series team in JGL Racing.
To his credit, he’s made the move work. Sure, he may not be winning races as he did a season ago, but he is making the most of the opportunity given to him. He started off the year with a fourth-place finish at Daytona, and since captured three top-20 finishes, including a 12th at Phoenix and a 14th last weekend at Auto Club Speedway.
So far, Grala is showing that his past success wasn’t a fluke, and the talent is there, which is essential for a young driver like him to do to make a name for himself.
It is possible with the way they have performed early, as Chastain has already equaled his 2017 total in top-10’s (two) and hasn’t finished outside the top-20. However, the most prominent sign of improvement came at Fontana.
The team qualified well, ran near the front during the entire race, and finished tenth. A day that isn’t typically associated with Chastain unless if at restrictor plate track.
If the No. 4 can continue to have days like this, they will be a playoff team.
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