The NASCAR XFINITY Series is back in action this weekend for Friday night’s Alsco 300. Here are the top storylines for this weekend’s race.
Kentucky has another ‘Big 3’ win written all over it
If history is any sort of indicator of the future, then there is a good chance this weekend at Kentucky Speedway one of the NASCAR Xfinity Series’ Big 3 – Tyler Reddick, Cole Custer and Christopher Bell – will take the checkered flag in the Alsco 300 on Saturday night at 7:30 p.m. ET on NBCSN, PRN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio.
For starters, two of the Big 3 have won the last two Xfinity Series races at Kentucky Speedway – Bell (2018) and Reddick (2017). And though Custer hasn’t won at Kentucky yet, he did win the pole for last season’s race and finished fifth.
On top of that, the series’ Big 3 has accounted for winning 11 of the first 16 races of the season – Bell (four), Custer (four) and Reddick (three); including three of the five 1.5-mile tracks the series has already visited – Atlanta (Bell), Charlotte (Reddick) and Chicago (Custer).
Big 3 Kentucky StatsDriversStartsPolesWinsTop 5sTop 10sAvg. StartAvg. FinishLaps LedChristopher Bell1011112.01.017Tyler Reddick301136.35.766Cole Custer410225.013.263
Sunoco rookie standings shake up following Daytona
After the dust settled from an action-packed race at Daytona International Speedway last weekend, the Sunoco Rookie of the Year standings looked quite different than before the event.
Heading into the Sunshine State, Chase Briscoe held the rookie standings lead by three points over second place Noah Gragson and six points ahead of third place John Hunter Nemechek. Unfortunately, Briscoe was involved in an incident at Daytona, relegating him to a 35th-place finish. The result relinquished his rookie standings lead and opened the door for his fellow rookies to pounce. Briscoe dropped to fourth in the Sunoco rookie points, and now Gragson leads the rookie standings by 22 markers over second place John Hunter Nemechek and 25 points over third place Justin Haley – who finished a series career-best second at Daytona last weekend.
Nemechek is the only rookie this season with a previous start at Kentucky – he made his series debut at the track last season starting sixth and finishing seventh.
This season’s Xfinity Series Kings on the 1.5-mile tracks NASCAR Xfinity Series Average Finishes on 1.5-mile Tracks in 2019DriversAverage FinishStartsTyler Reddick6.205Michael Annett6.405Noah Gragson7.005Justin Haley7.405Ryan Sieg9.405John H. Nemechek10.805Ross Chastain11.205Austin Cindric11.405Chase Briscoe12.205Cole Custer14.005
We have all heard of ‘road course ringers’, but who are the drivers in the NASCAR Xfinity Series this season that specialize in 1.5-mile tracks? Well you might be surprised. …
Five drivers have an average finish inside the top 10 on 1.5-mile tracks this season in the NASCAR Xfinity Series. While most might guess the series’ Big 3 might make up most of that five-pack, but they would be wrong. Of the Big 3, only Richard Childress Racing’s Tyler Reddick has an average finish inside the top-10 on 1.5-mile tracks in 2019.
This season has been one of the best for the California native Reddick, who leads the series in average finish on the 1.5-mile tracks with a 6.2. Reddick has a win at Charlotte and has finished in the top-five in three of the five 1.5-mile tracks this season (series-most). Looking to Friday night under the lights, Kentucky Speedway has been good to Reddick as well, in three starts he has a win (2017) and three top 10s.
JR Motorsport’s Michael Annett has also been running well on 1.5-mile tracks this season posting an average finish of 6.4, second only to Reddick’s 6.2. Annett is currently locked into the Playoffs by virtue of his win at Daytona in the season-opener but adding another victory and more Playoff points are his focus heading into Kentucky this weekend. Annett has made 10 series starts at Kentucky, posting one top five, five top 10s and an average finish of 13.4.
The next three drivers with average finishes inside the top-10 on 1.5-mile tracks this season are Sunoco Rookies Noah Gragson and Justin Haley and series veteran Ryan Sieg. All three drivers are without wins this season and are currently vying for the final open spots in the Playoffs with 10 races to go in the regular season.
RSS Racing’s Ryan Sieg is having a career-best season. He is 12th in the series driver points (final Playoff transfer spot) with a comfortable points cushion over 13th place after posting two top fives and six top 10s this season. But what has been most impressive is Sieg’s ability on 1.5-mile tracks in 2019, in five starts he has posted an average finish of 9.4 – fifth-best in the series. This weekend at Kentucky could bring more positive momentum for Sieg as the Georgia native has made nine series starts at Kentucky posting a best finish of 12th in 2015.
Gragson was off to a slow start to the year but has since found his footing and has excelled on 1.5-mile tracks posting an average finish of 7.0. Fellow Sunoco rookie Justin Haley scored his best finish of the season last weekend at Daytona (runner-up), but most of his success this year has come at 1.5-mile tracks as the Indiana native has posted an average finish of 7.4. Both Gragson and Haley will be making their series track debuts this weekend at Kentucky.
Outside Looking In: Wins are needed
With just 10 races left in the NASCAR Xfinity Series regular season, time is running out for drivers outside the Playoff’s cutoff. Currently RSS Racing’s Ryan Sieg is in 12th the final transfer spot for the postseason and he has a healthy points lead (92 points) over 13th place Gray Gaulding. This makes winning that much more important for the drivers outside of the Playoff cut line.
Kentucky Speedway has become known for giving six different drivers their first NASCAR Xfinity Series career win. Most notably was the first in 2006, when out of nowhere David Gilliland burst on the Xfinity Series scene by winning at Kentucky beating a stacked field that included Denny Hamlin, Kevin Harvick, Kyle Busch, Clint Bowyer and Carl Edwards. Just the next season Stephen Leicht won his first Xfinity race at Kentucky (2007), and then young up-and-coming phenom Joey Logano got his first win in 2008. Former series champion Austin Dillon won his first Xfinity career race at Kentucky in 2012 and Ryan Blaney got his at Kentucky in 2013.
The most recent driver to get his first win at Kentucky is Tyler Reddick, who won back in 2017 while driving for Chip Ganassi Racing. The win was a turning point in Reddick’s career which elevated him to a full-time ride (and the series championship) the next season.
A total of 11 drivers outside the top 12 are still eligible to make their way into the Playoffs. Of the 11 one is a former NASCAR Xfinity Series champion (Jeff Green), one is a 2019 Sunoco Rookie of the Year candidate (Brandon Brown) and only three have won in the series before. That leaves eight still looking for their first series win this weekend at Kentucky Speedway and all 11 looking for their first win this season.
RankDriverPointsStartsAttemptsRace WinsPts From Cutoff12Ryan Sieg435161609213Gray Gaulding34316160-9214Brandon Brown #31016160-12515Jeremy Clements29916160-13616Ray Black II25016160-18517Garrett Smithley24416160-19118Josh Williams23515160-20019Stephen Leicht22016160-21520Matt Mills18916160-24621David Starr18916160-24622Vinnie Miller18616160-24923Jeff Green8416160-351