The NASCAR XFINITY Series is back in action this weekend at the Bristol (Tenn) Motor Speedway. The Food City 300 is always a wild a crazy race and Friday night’s should be no different.
Five to go and ‘It’s Bristol Baby!’
Nothing like some good ‘ole short track racing with just five to go in the NASCAR Xfinity Series regular season. The competitors will test their skills on the high banks of Bristol Motor Speedway under the Friday night lights in the Food City 300 at 7:30 p.m. ET on NBCSN, PRN, and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio.
Bristol will be the last short track the NASCAR Xfinity Series competes on in the regular season and the second time the series has visited the track this year. Nestled in Thunder Valley, Bristol Motor Speedway is a 0.533-mile track in length with variable banking of 24 to 28 degrees in the turns.
Bristol has hosted 74 NASCAR Xfinity Series races, producing 48 different pole winners and 47 different race winners. Chip Ganassi Racing’s Kyle Larson won last season’s Xfinity Series Bristol August race and Joe Gibbs Racing’s Christopher Bell won at the half-mile track earlier this season.
This season’s Food City 300 is scheduled to run 300 laps (159.9 miles). The first stage will end on Lap 85 and the second stage will end on Lap 170. Keep in mind each stage winner banks an all-too-valuable Playoff point which will come in handy once the postseason starts. Earlier this year, Justin Allgaier led the most laps in the race (138) and won both stages but finished 30th due to a late race accident.
Playoff Picture looks good for some, not so much for others
With five races to go and each of the six drivers with at least one win already clinching their spot in the NASCAR Xfinity Series Playoffs, six postseason positions are still up for grabs as the series heads to Thunder Valley on Friday night for the Food City 300 at Bristol Motor Speedway (7:30 p.m. ET on NBCSN, PRN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio).
The six drivers who have clinched their spot in the 2019 NASCAR Xfinity Series Playoffs are Tyler Reddick, Christopher Bell, Cole Custer, Austin Cindric, chase Briscoe and Michael Annett.
Below are the Bristol stats for the drivers inside the NASCAR Xfinity Series driver standings Top 12 – all of whom have clinched a spot in the top 20 in the points standings, but have yet to clinch a Playoff berth on points – although a win would lock them in immediately:
ü Justin Allgaier (0 Wins, 773 Points, +534 Points Ahead of 21st) If Allgaier hasn’t clinched a spot on points, none of the other winless drivers below him in the standings could clinch either at this point. Allgaier has made 17 series starts posting one pole, one win (2010), eight top fives, 10 top 10s and an average finish of 12.2.
u Noah Gragson (0 Wins, 702 Points, +463 Points Ahead of 21st) Gragson made his series track debut at Bristol earlier this season starting seventh and finishing ninth.
ü Justin Haley (0 Wins, 658 Points, +419 Points Ahead of 21st) Haley made his series track debut at Bristol earlier this season; he started 11th and finished seventh.
ü John Hunter Nemechek (0 Wins, 613 Points, +374 Points Ahead of 21st) Nemechek has made two series starts at Bristol, posting one top five (fifth earlier this season) and an average finish of 9.0.
ü Ryan Sieg (0 Wins, 569 Points, +330 Points Ahead of 21st) Sieg has made 11 starts at Bristol posting an average finish of 19.2. He posted his series best finish (11th) at Bristol in this race last season.
ü Brandon Jones (0 Wins, 568 Points, +329 Points Ahead of 21st) Of the six drivers in the Top 12 in the series driver standings needing a win, most desperate for that victory is Jones. If a driver outside the top 12 were to win over the next five races, he could possibly be bumped from the Playoffs because he is in the final points transfer spot. Jones has made eight series starts at Bristol putting up two top 10s and an average finish of 15.3.
Jones, in that 12th and final Playoff transfer spot, can rest assured he does have a healthy points gap between himself and the rest of the drivers trying to make the Playoffs. Jones is currently 108 points ahead of Gray Gaulding in 13th; meaning it will most likely take a win from the drivers outside of the current 12 Playoff contenders to make the postseason.
Expect Xfinity’s Big 3 to remind everyone why they have that nickname
Earlier this season, when the NASCAR Xfinity Series first visited Bristol Motor Speedway, the series’ Big 3 – Christopher Bell, Tyler Reddick and Cole Custer – stretched their muscles and finished 1-2-3. And it was the beginning of a dominant nine-race stretch of consecutive victories (Race No. 7 at Bristol all the way to Race No. 15 at Chicago). In total the three drivers have accumulated 13 of the first 21 races of the season.
Earlier this season at Bristol, not only did the Big 3 finish strong, each of the three led considerable laps that day as well (each with 25 or more: Bell 57 laps led, Reddick 61, Custer 25).
Joe Gibbs Racing’s Christopher Bell is looking to become just the third driver since the series inception in 1982 to accomplish the Bristol Xfinity season sweep, joining Steve Grissom (1995) and Kyle Busch (three consecutive victories twice: Aug. 2010-2011 season sweep and 2013 season sweep-March 2014). Bell has made three starts at Bristol Motor Speedway posting one win (2019), two top fives and an average finish of 10.7. Among the Big 3, Bell has spent the most time out front at Bristol, leading a total of 110 laps.
Richard Childress Racing’s Tyler Reddick finished second in the spring Bristol event after leading on three different occasions earlier in the race. Reddick has a knack for Bristol, in four series starts at ‘The Last Great Colosseum’ he has chiseled out one top five, three top 10s and an average finish of 7.250 – best of the Big 3.
Stewart-Haas Racing’s Cole Custer started on the pole and commanded the first 25 laps but ultimately finished third at Bristol earlier this season. Much like his fellow Big 3 competitors, Custer has taken to Bristol with ease. With the most experience at the track among the three, Custer’s five starts have yielded two poles (2018 and 2019 spring race), two top fives, four top 10s and an average finish of 11.4. Plus, he has led laps in his last three consecutive starts at Bristol.
With the Big 3 locked into the Playoffs, these last five races of the season are perfect opportunities to pad their Playoff points as 35 are still on the table (seven per race). JGR’s Christopher Bell currently has the season’s most Playoff points at 38; followed by Cole Custer’s 31 and Reddick’s 18.
NASCAR Xfinity Series, Etc.
Monsters invade Thunder Valley – Three stout short tracks drivers from the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series will be competing in the NASCAR Xfinity Series Food City 300 on Friday night. Joe Gibbs Racing has tapped Kyle Busch to pilot the No. 18 Toyota Supra. Busch leads the series in poles (six), wins (nine), top fives (17) and laps led (2,067) at Bristol Motor Speedway. Team Penske has called on Joey Logano to strap into the No. 12 Ford Mustang on Friday. Logano has made 12 series starts at Bristol posting a pole, two wins, six top fives and 10 top 10s. Finally, XCI Racing has dialed-up Joe Gibbs Racing’s Erik Jones to jump behind the wheel of their No. 81 Toyota Supra. Bristol is one of Jones’ best tracks as in five starts he put up three poles, two wins, three top fives and four top 10s.
Cindric looking for Three-peat – Team Penske’s Austin Cindric has become quite familiar with Victory Lane the past two weekends as the North Carolina native has bagged the last two checkered flags in the NASCAR Xfinity Series and this weekend is looking to become just the ninth driver to win three-in-a-row.
Below is a look at the drivers that have won three or more races consecutively:
Dale Earnhardt Jr