The NASCAR XFINITY Series is set to go road course racing this weekend for their first time of the year. But, they better get used to it, because three of the next four races will feature left and right hand turns.
Xfinity Series “Big 3” go road racing at Watkins Glen International
Christopher Bell races his No. 20 last weekend at the Iowa Speewday
After banking 13 of the first 19 races of the 2019 NASCAR Xfinity Series season, the “Big 3” (Tyler Reddick, Christopher Bell and Cole Custer) turn their sights to the first of four road courses the series will compete on this year – Watkin Glen International – for the Zippo 200 at The Glen on Saturday, August 3 at 3 p.m. ET on NBC, MRN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio.
In last season’s four road course events, Cole Custer proved he is the best of the trio at turning both left and right. In the four events he posted one top five and three top 10s; as compared to Bell’s one top 10 and none from Reddick.
Of the three drivers, Stewart-Haas Racing’s Cole Custer has the most experience at the 2.45-mile, seven turn road course. He has made two series starts at The Glen, posting one top 10 (sixth in this race last year) and an average finish of 9.0.
Both Bell and Reddick made their series track debuts at Watkins Glen last season. Bell started 11th and finished ninth; while Reddick qualified 27th and drove his way up to an 11th-place finish.
Also keep in mind, Christopher Bell and Cole Custer have now become just the second duo of drivers in series history to win five or more races each in the first 19 events of a season – a feat the series hasn’t seen in 35 years; when Jack Ingram and Sam Ard both won seven races each in the first 19 races of the season in 1984. If either Bell or Custer wins this weekend their legend will just grow as only six drivers in series history have won six or more races in the first 20 races of the season – Tommy Ellis (six wins, 1983), Sam Ard (seven wins, 1984), Jack Ingram (eight wins, 1984), Larry Pearson (six wins, 1987), Chad Little (six wins, 1995) and Kyle Busch (six wins, 2009; eight wins, 2010; six wins, 2011; eight wins, 2013; seven wins, 2016).
Chase Briscoe celebrates in victory lane after winning last Saturday’s US Cellular 250 at the Iowa Speedway
Locked In: Briscoe gets big win he’s been needing
Stewart-Haas Racing with Fred Biagi driver Chase Briscoe fought off the pursuit of the “Big 3” and won at Iowa Speedway this past weekend to lock himself into the NASCAR Xfinity Series Playoffs with seven races left in the regular season.
Briscoe’s season has had its ups and downs, but he and the No. 98 Ford team have hit their stride in the latter stage of the year. In 19 starts this season, Briscoe has put up one win (Iowa-2), eight top fives, 14 top 10s and an average finish of 8.9. He is currently seventh in the series standings.
In addition, Briscoe is second in the series Sunoco Rookie of the Year standings, just four points behind rookie standings leader Noah Gragson.
This week will be extra busy for Briscoe as the 24-year old will be competing in the NASCAR Gander Outdoors Truck Series race at Eldora Speedway on Thursday night in an attempt to defend his win from last season, and then will be making his Xfinity Series track debut at Watkins Glen International during the weekend. Though it will be the first time Briscoe has run at Watkins Glen, the Mitchell, Indiana ,native should be confident heading into Saturday as he won on a road course last season (Charlotte ROVAL).
Outsiders: Easiest way into the Playoffs is to win at this point
WATKINS GLEN, NY – AUGUST 04: Brad Keselowski, driver of the #12 Wabash National Ford, and Ryan Preece, driver of the #18 Craftsman Toyota, lead the field during the NASCAR Xfinity Series Zippo 200 at Watkins Glen International on August 4, 2018 in Watkins Glen, New York. (Photo by Robert Laberge/Getty Images)
With the points gap between 12th place Brandon Jones, in the final Playoff transfer spot, and 13th place Gray Gaulding, in the first spot outside the postseason cutoff, reaching over 100 points (101 to be exact) it is most likely going to take a win in these last seven races for the drivers outside the cutline to make the Playoffs. The problem for them is of the 11 eligible drivers outside the Playoff cutoff, only two have won before in the series – Jeremy Clements (Road America, 2017) and Stephen Leicht (Kentucky, 2007).
Watkins Glen International has been the site of three drivers finding their first NASCAR Xfinity Series career win – Bill Elliott (6/26/1993), Ron Fellows (6/28/1998) and Marcos Ambrose (8/9/2008).
The varying experience at Watkins Glen among the 11 drivers outside the Playoff cutoff this weekend is vast. Gray Gaulding, Brandon Brown, Josh Williams and Matt Mills will all be making their series track debuts this weekend in Zippo 200 at The Glen.
Then at the other end of the WGI experience spectrum sits Jeremy Clements, who has made eight series starts at Watkins Glen, posting an average finish of 20.5. His best finish at The Glen was 11th back in 2015. Clements only series career win came at a road course – Road America – in 2017. His best finish to-date this season was a ninth-place finish at Daytona in July.
Ray Black Jr. made his series track debut and only start at Watkins Glen in 2016; he started 33rd and finished 20th. His best finish this season has been 11th (twice at Las Vegas and Iowa-2).
Garrett Smithley has made three series starts at Watkins Glen, putting up an average finish of 28.7. Smithley’s best finish this season was an 11th at Talladega.
Stephen Leicht has also made three series starts at Watkins Glen posting an average finish of 31.7. Leicht’s best finish this season was a fifth-place finish at Daytona in July.
Vinnie Miller made his series track debut at Watkins Glen last season; he started 40th and finished 35th. Miller’s best finish this season was an 11th-place at Daytona in July.
David Starr has made three series starts at The Glen, grabbing an average finish of 29.7. His best finish this season was a 14th-place finish at Talladega.
And finally, Joey Gase has made six series starts at Watkins Glen posting an average finish of 30.5. His best finish this season was 16th in the season-opener at Daytona.
AJ Allmendinger all smiles as he returns to the NASCAR XFINITY Series for the second time of the season this weekend at the Watkins Glen International
Xfinity road racing ace AJ Allmendinger returns to the series
Kaulig Racing has called to the bullpen again and this time road racing ace AJ Allmendinger is answering as the California native will be in the No. 10 Chevrolet for the second time this season.
Allmendinger only has 12 NASCAR Xfinity Series starts in his career, posting two wins and three top fives, but what is interesting is all the fruits of his labor have all come at the road courses.
In his series track debut at Road America in 2013, while driving for Team Penske, Allmendinger put on a clinic, winning the event from the pole.
Later that season (2013), in his series track debut at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course, again driving for Team Penske, he started on the front row and won that event as well.
Then last season, GMS Racing tapped Allmendinger to guide their No. 23 Chevrolet at The Glen, which resulted in him starting fourth and finishing runner-up to 2018 Monster Energy Series champion Joey Logano.
In his second start for Kaulig Racing this weekend, Allmendinger will be looking for redemption after in his season debut at Daytona in July, when he finished third but failed post-race inspection and was disqualified, relegating him to a last place finish.
WATKINS GLEN, NY – AUGUST 04: Joey Logano, driver of the #22 Snap On Ford, crosses the finish line to win the NASCAR Xfinity Series Zippo 200 at Watkins Glen International on August 4, 2018 in Watkins Glen, New York. (Photo by Jeff Zelevansky/Getty Images)
Big name Monsters coming to play at The Glen
The NASCAR Xfinity Series championship contenders will have their work cut out for them this weekend as three Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series drivers are entered in the Zippo 200 at The Glen – Joe Gibbs Racing’s Kyle Busch, JR Motorsport’s Ryan Preece and Team Penske’s Ryan Blaney.
Kyle Busch has made 10 Xfinity Series starts at Watkins Glen, posting one win (2017), six top fives and seven top 10s. This weekend’s race will be Busch’s fifth series start this season. In his previous four starts he has posted three wins and one runner-up finish.
This weekend will be a time of firsts for the Team Penske star Ryan Blaney, who will be making his series season debut and his series track debut this weekend at Watkins Glen.
Ryan Preece has made two series starts at Watkins Glen posting a best finish of fourth last season. Preece has made three prior starts this season, posting one top five and three top 10s for JR Motorsports.