Rolling The Dice: Las Vegas is last chance to make the Playoffs
It has all come down to this weekend and when the dust settles at Las Vegas Motor Speedway following the Rhino Pro Truck Outfitters 300 (Saturday, Sept. 14 at 7:30 p.m. ET on NBCSN, PRN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio) the 12-driver NASCAR Xfinity Series Playoff field will have been decided.
Heading into this weekend, the 12 drivers currently holding postseason spots are clinched on points and can only be knocked out by a driver outside of that group by the “win and you’re in” scenario. And with one race left, the 12th position – the final Playoff transfer position in the NASCAR Xfinity Series driver standings – is currently held by RSS Racing’s Ryan Sieg. If a driver outside the current Playoff 12 points were to win at Las Vegas, Sieg would be replaced with the Las Vegas winner.
Drivers currently clinched to make the Playoffs heading into Las Vegas are Richard Childress Racing’s Tyler Reddick, Joe Gibbs Racing’s Christopher Bell, Stewart-Haas Racing’s Cole Custer, Team Penske’s Austin Cindric, Stewart-Haas Racing with Fred Biagi’s Chase Briscoe and JR Motorsports teammates Michael Annett, Justin Allgaier and Noah Gragson.
Drivers still looking to lock themselves into the Playoffs and their clinch scenarios based on points (all are currently locked into the top 20 in the standings regardless of finish this weekend):
Brandon Jones (0 Wins, 716 Points, +433 Points Ahead of 21st) – Would clinch on points with 16 Points and a new winner. If there is a repeat winner (or a win by Justin Allgaier, Noah Gragson, Justin Haley, John Hunter Nemechek or Ryan Sieg), they would clinch on points, regardless of finish.
John Hunter Nemechek (0 Wins, 688 Points, +405 Points Ahead of 21st) – Would clinch on points with 43 Points and a new winner. If there is a repeat winner (or a win by Justin Allgaier, Noah Gragson, Justin Haley, Brandon Jones or Ryan Sieg), they would clinch on points, regardless of finish.
Ryan Sieg (0 Wins, 676 Points, +393 Points Ahead of 21st) – If there is a repeat winner (or a win by Justin Allgaier, Noah Gragson, Justin Haley, Brandon Jones or John Hunter Nemechek), they would clinch on points, regardless of finish. Could clinch on points with a new winner and help.
The rest of the drivers listed below Sieg in the NASCAR Xfinity Series Playoff standings would have to win to make the postseason.
RCR’s Tyler Reddick looking to capture the regular season championship
Tyler Reddick has recorded four race wins this season, but there’s another major trophy he’s looking to leave Las Vegas with – the regular season championship hardware.
The Richard Childress Racing driver needs just 11 points to clinch the regular season championship, which he could conceivably collect by putting together solid performances in the first two stages of the race (a driver can collect a maximum of 10 points per each of the first two stages for a total of 20).
If Reddick were to have issues early in the race, Christopher Bell is the only other driver who could catch him. Bell is currently 50 points behind Reddick in the standings. If the two were to tie in points, Bell would hold the tiebreaker in wins (six wins to Reddick’s four).
Reddick has made three starts at the 1.5-mile circuit located near Nellis Air Force Base, recording one top 10 (an eighth-place finish in his track debut in the spring of 2018).
Stage Is Set: Las Vegas Motor Speedway is the next show
Las Vegas Motor Speedway will close out the 2019 NASCAR Xfinity Series regular season, not only deciding who makes Playoffs but also who wins this year’s Xfinity Series regular season championship.
Las Vegas Motor Speedway is a 1.5-mile track with 20 degrees of banking in the turns, located just north of Las Vegas, Nevada. Las Vegas has hosted 24 NASCAR Xfinity Series races, yielding 17 different pole winners and 17 different race winners. Ross Chastain won last season’s regular season finale while racing for Chip Ganassi Racing and Joe Gibbs Racing’s Kyle Busch won the Xfinity Series race at Las Vegas earlier this season.
This season’s Rhino Pro Truck Outfitters 300 is scheduled for Saturday, September 14 at 7:30 p.m. ET (NBCSN, PRN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio). The event will be 200 laps (300 miles) with the first stage ending on Lap 45 and the second stage ending on Lap 90.
Breaking down the outsiders
The beauty of the “win and you’re in” format is that you’re always saying, “There’s a chance!”
Drivers such as Gray Gaulding, Jeremy Clements and Brandon Brown who sit outside of the current Playoff 12 know they won’t get a shot at the postseason based on points. But they do know that a win will get them in.
Is it a longshot for them? Yes. But it’s still a shot.
Here’s a look at those trio of outsiders:
Gray Gaulding (No. 08 SS Green Light Racing Chevrolet) is 13th in points. He’s posted one top-five and three top-10 finishes this season. His best result was second at Talladega, but he’s been running better as of late, finishing in the top 15 in six of the last seven races. He finished 12th at Las Vegas earlier this season, his lone start at the track.
Jeremy Clements (No. 51 Jeremy Clements Racing Chevrolet) sits 14th in the standings. Clements also has one top five and three top 10s this season, with his best finish of fourth coming at Bristol just four races ago. He has also put together some solid finishes recently, running 12th or better in the last six races, including two of his top-10 results. He has raced at Las Vegas nine times, and his best two finishes were his most recent two races – 13th last fall and 15th this spring.
Brandon Brown (No. 86 Brandonbilt Motorsports Chevrolet) is 15th in the points. He has one top 10 this season – a sixth-place result from the July Daytona race. He finished 17th earlier this season at Las Vegas in his only start at the 1.5-mile venue.
Truex, Herbst and Sadler aiming to play spoiler
While many of the NASCAR Xfinity Series fulltime championship contenders will be vying for their spot in the Playoffs this Saturday, September 14, in the Rhino Pro Truck Outfitters 300 (7:30 p.m. ET on NBCSN, PRN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio), many needing a win to do so, three part-time drivers – Ryan Truex, Elliott Sadler and Riley Herbst – will be looking to play spoiler and steal the win at Las Vegas and possibly someone’s postseason hopes.
Truex will be in the No. 8 JR Motorsports Chevrolet this weekend with crew chief Taylor Moyer calling the shots from the pit box. Truex has been solid in his first three starts with the No. 8 JRM team, posting one top five and three top 10s; including a runner-up finish at ISM Raceway. Truex has made three previous Xfinity career starts at Las Vegas, putting up one top-10 finish – an eighth-place result in this race last season while driving for Kaulig Racing.
Sadler returns to saddle up in the No. 10 Kaulig Racing Chevrolet this weekend at Las Vegas; his second start of the season for the team. Sadler’s season debut was back at Richmond in April, where he started 27th and raced his way up to a 12th-place finish. Las Vegas is one of Sadler’s better tracks, in his last eight series starts at the 1.5-mile facility he has posted four top fives and six top 10s.
Herbst jumps into the No. 18 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota this weekend at Las Vegas with crew chief Ben Beshore on the pit box. Herbst has made seven series starts this season, posting two top 10s. This Saturday will be Herbst’s series track debut at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.
Bell, Custer could reach double digit wins this season
The NASCAR Xfinity Series has only seen two drivers in its history reach double digit wins in a single season – Sam Ard and Kyle Busch. This season, NASCAR Xfinity Series championship contenders Christopher Bell (six wins) and Cole Custer (six wins) could become next drivers to accomplish the historically difficult feat of winning 10 or more races in a season.
Sam Ard was the first to do it back in 1983 when he muscled 10 wins from the competition en route to his first of two NASCAR Xfinity Series titles (1983-1984).
While Ard might have been the first, Kyle Busch became the master of double digit win seasons, putting together four such years in his career. The Las Vegas native first produced a 10-win season in 2008, but then backed that up with a NASCAR Xfinity Series record 13 wins for Joe Gibbs Racing in 2010. He has since then posted a 12-win season in 2013 and another 10-win season in 2016.
Bell broke the NASCAR Xfinity Series Sunoco Rookie of the Year single season wins record last season when he hoisted seven trophies, surpassing the previous record of five victories held by Greg Biffle, Carl Edwards and Kyle Busch. Now this season the Joe Gibbs Racing driver has already visited Victory Lane six times…and this weekend at Las Vegas could be his seventh.
In three starts at Las Vegas, Bell has posted a pole, two top fives and an average finish of 6.3. He finished 13th earlier this season at Vegas after being caught in a multi-car incident late in the race. He finished runner-up in his series debut at the track and three of 14 career Xfinity wins have come on 1.5-mile tracks (Kansas, Kentucky and Atlanta), so don’t be surprised if Bell is in Victory Lane this weekend.
Custer is having a career breakout season this year and has every bit of a chance to reach double digit wins by season’s end. The California kid who drives for Stewart-Haas Racing is in his third full-time season in the series and only produced one win in each of his first two years.
But this season he has had six Victory Lane celebrations, bringing his Xfinity Series career wins total to eight. Heading to Las Vegas, Custer has made four series starts at the 1.5-mile track, posting two poles, one top five and three top 10s. Plus, four of Custer’s eight Xfinity career wins have come on 1.5-mile tracks.