The NASCAR XFINITY Series will take to the track this weekend for Saturday’s ROXOR 200 (4 p.m. ET/NBCSN/PRN/SiriusXM NASCAR Radio). Here’s the race preview.
New Hampshire is Joe Gibbs Racing country
The fact is no other organization has dominated New Hampshire Motor Speedway in both the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series and the NASCAR Xfinity Series like Joe Gibbs Racing has. Rolling into this weekend at the famed 1.058-mile track, the JGR camp leads both series in wins; combining for 19 total victories (11 in Monster Energy Series and 8 in Xfinity).
Last season, Christopher Bell brought Joe Gibbs Racing their fourth consecutive and eighth total NASCAR Xfinity Series victory at New Hampshire – Tony Stewart (2008), Kyle Busch (2009, 2010, 2011, 2016, 2017), Denny Hamlin (2015) and Christopher Bell (2018).
Bell will be leading the JGR brigade this weekend too, as the 24-year-old will be joined by teammates Brandon Jones and Harrison Burton in the ROXOR 200 on Saturday, July 20, at 4 p.m. ET on NBCSN, PRN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio. Bell made his series track debut last season at New Hampshire, starting second and winning the event. Bell’s teammate, Jones, has made three starts at New Hampshire, posting a best finish of sixth last season.
Back in the No. 18 Toyota for the third time this season, Harrison Burton will be making his series track debut at New Hampshire this Saturday. Though it will be his first start at the track, he will have some extra special experience in his corner, Burton’s father is former Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series driver Jeff Burton…who just so happens to lead the Monster Energy Series in wins at the track with four victories.
Stewart-Haas Racing’s Cole Custer leads the Big 3 to New Hampshire
It’s officially a breakout season for Stewart-Haas Racing’s Cole Custer, who just grabbed his fifth NASCAR Xfinity Series victory of the season last weekend at Kentucky Speedway. Now the California native turns his attention to New Hampshire Motor Speedway as he leads the Xfinity Series’ Big 3 into this weekend’s ROXOR 200 on Saturday, July 20 at 4 p.m. ET on NBCSN, PRN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio.
With nine races to go in the regular season, Custer is third in the NASCAR Xfinity Series driver standings with four poles (series-most), five wins (series-most), six stage wins, 10 top fives, 11 top 10s and has collected 31 Playoff points (series-most).
But Custer is not the only one, Joe Gibbs Racing’s Christopher Bell and Richard Childress Racing’s Tyler Reddick have also been outstanding this season. Bell is second in the series driver standings having posted three poles, four wins, 10 stage wins (series-most), 10 top fives, 11 top 10s and has accumulated 30 Playoff points. And not to be outdone is the series standings leader, Tyler Reddick, who has put up three poles, three wins, three stage wins, 12 top fives (series-most), 14 top 10s (series-most) and has gathered 18 Playoff points.
Expect the momentum to continue for the Big 3 in New Hampshire. Custer has made two series start at the New England short track posting an average finish of 9.0. Both Bell and Reddick made their series track debuts last season at New Hampshire with very different outcomes. Bell started second and won, while Reddick started ninth and finished 25th two laps down after a pit road penalty earlier in the race.
Also of note – Custer got his first career NASCAR national series win at New Hampshire when he won in the NASCAR Gander Outdoors Truck Series in 2014 at just 16-years old.
Kaz Grala tapped by RCR – Boston, Mass. native Kaz Grala will be back in the No. 21 Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet this weekend at New Hampshire Motor Speedway with crew chief Justin Alexander calling shots from the pit box. Grala has made three series start for RCR this season posting an average finish of 15.3. Grala made his series track debut at New Hampshire last season; he started 16th and finished 14th.
Team Penske & Paul Menard – Paul Menard returns to the No. 12 Team Penske Ford this weekend at New Hampshire for his second Xfinity Series start of 2019. Menard made his series season debut a few weeks back at Michigan where he won the pole and finished fourth. Menard has made seven series starts at New Hampshire posting one top five and three top 10s. His last Xfinity start at New Hampshire was back in 2014.
Burton is back with JGR – NASCAR Gander Outdoors Truck Series contender Harrison Burton will be back in the No. 18 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota this weekend. Burton has already made two series starts this season for JGR putting up one top five and two top 10s. This weekend he will be making his NASCAR national series track debut at NHMS.
Regular Season Wrap: Nine to go at nine completely different tracks
The diversity of the next nine tracks on the schedule to round out the regular season is astounding and the ability of the NASCAR Xfinity Series competitors to navigate these different facilities at such a high level is quite impressive.
New Hampshire Motor Speedway – is the next track on the Xfinity Series schedule and this weekend’s facility is a 1.058-mile short track with variable banking from 2-7 degrees in the turns located in Loudon, New Hampshire. This weekend’s race will be the ROXOR 200 on Saturday, July 20 at 4 p.m. ET on NBCSN, PRN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio. The event is scheduled for 200 laps (211.6 miles) with the first stage ending on Lap 45, the second stage on Lap 90. New Hampshire has hosted 32 NASCAR Xfinity Series races producing 18 different pole winners and 26 different race winners. Joe Gibbs Racing’s Christopher Bell is the defending winner of last season’s Xfinity Series race at New Hampshire.
Iowa Speedway – follows New Hampshire on the Xfinity Series schedule and it will be the second time this season the series has competed on the 0.875-mile track with progressive banking from 12-14 degrees in the turns located in Newton, Iowa. This time around it will be the U.S. Cellular 250 on Saturday, July 27 at 5 p.m. ET on NBCSN, MRN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio. The event is scheduled for 250 laps (218.75 miles) with the first stage ending on Lap 60 and the second stage ending on Lap 120. Iowa Speedway has hosted 19 NASCAR Xfinity Series race producing 12 different pole winners and 13 different race winners. Joe Gibbs Racing’s Christopher Bell has won the last two consecutive events at Iowa (July 2018 and June 2019).
Watkins Glen International – marks the first of four road courses the NASCAR Xfinity Series will compete on this season. Watkins Glen is a 2.45-mile multi-elevational course with seven turns located in Watkins Glen, New York. This year’s Zippo 200 at Glen is scheduled for Saturday, August 3 at 3 p.m. ET on NBC, MRN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio. This season’s event is scheduled for 82 laps (200.9 miles) with the first stage ending on Lap 20 and the second stage ending on Lap 40. Watkins Glen has hosted 25 NASCAR Xfinity Series races producing 15 different pole winners and 14 different race winners. Team Penske’s Joey Logano won last season’s Xfinity Series race at Watkins Glen International.
Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course – follows The Glen as the second of four road courses on the schedule this season. Though labeled as multi-elevational road courses that’s where the similarities of Mid-Ohio and The Glen end. Mid-Ohio is a 2.258-mile course with 13 different turns located in Lexington, Ohio. This year’s B&L Transport 170 at Mid-Ohio is scheduled for Saturday, August 10 at 3 p.m. ET on NBCSN, MRN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio. Drivers will compete for 75 laps (169.35 miles) in the event with the first stage ending on Lap 20 and the second stage ending on Lap 40. Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course has hosted six NASCAR Xfinity Series races producing four different pole winners and six different race winners. JR Motorsport’s Justin Allgaier won the Xfinity Series Mid-Ohio race last season.
Bristol Motor Speedway – 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 short track that is 0.533-mile in length with variable banking of 24 to 28 degrees in the turns. This season’s Food City 300 is scheduled for Friday night, August 16 at 7:30 p.m. ET on NBCSN, PRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio and will run 300 laps (159.9 miles). The first stage will end on Lap 85 and the second stage will end on Lap 170. 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.
Road America – is the last road course the NASCAR Xfinity Series will compete on in the NASCAR Xfinity Series regular season and the third of four scheduled on the year. Known as one of the drivers’ favorite courses to race on Road America is a multi-elevation 4-mile road course with 14 different turns located in Elkhart Lake, Wisconsin. This season’s CTECH Manufacturing 180 is schedule for Saturday, August 24 at 3 p.m. ET on NBCSN, MRN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio. This year’s event will be 45 laps (180 miles) with the first stage ending on Lap 10 and the second stage ending on Lap 20. Road America has hosted nine NASCAR Xfinity Series races producing six different pole winners and nine different race winners. JR Motorsport’s Justin Allgaier won this event at Road America in 2018.
Darlington Raceway – is one of the most historic and admired tracks in NASCAR history; largely due to the unique 1.366-mile egg-shaped layout. Located in Darlington, South Carolina with 25 degrees of banking in Turns 1-2 and 23 degrees of banking in Turns 3-4, the distinctive shaped facility offers a one-of-a-kind challenge to the competitors. This season’s Sport Clips Haircuts VFW 200 is schedule for Saturday, August 31 at 4 p.m. ET on NBC, MRN, and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio. The event will be 147 laps (200.8 miles) with the first stage ending on Lap 45 and the second stage ending on Lap 90. Darlington has hosted 58 NASCAR Xfinity Series races yielding 28 different poles winners and 30 different race winners. Team Penske’s Brad Keselowski won the 2018 Xfinity Series race at Darlington.
Indianapolis Motor Speedway – is considered one of the most prestigious and historic tracks in American racing history. The almost rectangular-shaped four corner track is 2.5-miles in length with nine degrees of banking in the turns and located in Indianapolis, Indiana. This season’s Indiana 250 is scheduled for Saturday, September 7 at 4 p.m. ET on NBCSN, IMS and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio. The Indiana 250 will be 100 laps (250 miles) with the first stage ending on Lap 30 and the second stage ending on Lap 60. Indianapolis Motor Speedway has hosted seven NASCAR Xfinity Series races yielding three different pole winners and five different race winners. JR Motorsport’s Justin Allgaier won the 2018 NASCAR Xfinity Series race at Indianapolis.
Las Vegas Motor Speedway – will close out the 2019 NASCAR Xfinity Series regular season, not only deciding who makes Playoffs but also who is this year’s regular season champion. 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. This season’s DC Solar 300 is scheduled for Saturday, September 14 at 7:30 p.m. ET on 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. Las Vegas Motor Speedway has hosted 24 NASCAR Xfinity Series races creating 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.
Playoff Picture Taking Shape
We’re not even out of the month of July yet, but it appears that barring something very unforseen that the playoff fields are likely set in both the NASCAR XFINITY Series as well as the NASCAR Gander Outdoors Trucks Series competition.
See, with only nine races remaining in the NXS regular season, the playoff bubble is nearing 100 points.
Brandon Jones in a Joe Gibbs Racing car is 95 points above Gray Gaulding for the final playoff spot. Brandon Brown is next up, but a wide 130 points out. Both Jeremy Clements (-137) and Garrett Smithley (-198) are both eligible if they can reach victory lane over the next nine weeks, but the odds of them doing so are slim to none. With them nearing 200 points out, there’s no way they can points their ways in.
So, it’s down to win or go home scenarios in the XFINITY Series for four drivers who have never won before. Plus, when the “Big 3” have won 14 of the 19 races in 2019 including finishing 1-2-3 in Friday night’s Alsco 300, then winning is harder than ever.
So, I feel good about the 12 driver field right now being set in NXS.