No NASCAR championship is more wide open this season than in the Xfinity Series and that’s in most part because none of the eight Chase drivers have won a race in this round.
Sprint Cup Series regulars Kyle Busch and Kyle Larson have won the first two races in the Round of 8, denying an Xfinity regular a chance to lock themselves into the Championship 4 at Homestead-Miami Speedway.
That means all eight Chase drivers – Daniel Suarez, Elliott Sadler, Erik Jones, Blake Koch, Justin Allgaier, Ryan Reed, Darrell Wallace Jr. and Brendan Gaughan – still have a chance to compete for the title, or be eliminated.
Suarez, Sadler, Jones and Koch currently hold the top four positions in the standings. Wallace and Gaughan are both 20 or more points behind fourth-place and probably need a victory to advance to Homestead.
If any of the eight win Saturday’s race at Phoenix, they will gain an automatic berth while the remaining three positions would be filled in by the points standings. If a non-Chase driver wins the race, all four Championship 4 participants will be determined by points.
Where they stand
Here’s a look at how each of the eight remaining drivers stand entering this weekend’s race:
Suarez holds a one-point advantage over Sadler but is 17 points ahead of Allgaier, who is currently fifth in the standings. Because of that advantage, Suarez can clinch a spot in the Homestead race with a finish of 15th or better, regardless of the performance of any other driver. He has also been the most consistent performer in the Chase thus far with an average finish of 2.8.
Sadler has been knocking on the championship door for several seasons – he’s finished in the top three in the series standings in three of the last five seasons. Sadler comes to Phoenix as the only Chase driver who has a win at the track (2012) and his average finish in the Chase (3.6) is second only to Suarez.
Jones entered the Chase as the top seed but his performance so far has been hit-or-miss. After a 15th place finish at Kansas, he rebounded with a fourth last weekend at Texas. His Phoenix record is strong: three top-five and four top-10 finishes in four races, including a second-place finish in the spring.
The surprise of the Chase thus far, Koch holds the final transfer spot by one point over Allgaier. His average finish in the Chase (12.0) is fourth-best among the title contenders and why he remains in title contention.
Allgaier has run well in the Chase, with an average finish of 8.4 – third-best among title contenders. He’ll likely need to improve on his record at Phoenix to advance to the Championship 4. Allgaier has three-top-five finishes in 12 starts at the track, but did finish fourth in the spring.
Over the five races of the Chase, Reed has an average finish of 12.0. And Phoenix is not one of his better tracks – he has an average finish of 17.7 in six series starts.
This has not been a good round for Wallace. He finished 33rd at Kansas and 11th at Texas last weekend, which has left him in a serious points hole. In three starts at Phoenix, he has one top-10 finish.
- Gaughan is in a must-win situation, but his track record at Phoenix doesn’t offer much promise. In 10 series starts at the track, he has one top-five and four top-10 finishes. Nothing short of a win will do him much good.