The first round of the NASCAR XFINITY Series playoffs are now behind us. Saturday’s race at the Dover International Speedway was the elimination race of the opening round. 12 drivers entered, eight would advance.
Justin Haley, John Hunter Nemechek, Brandon Jones and Ryan Sieg saw their championship hopes end on Saturday afternoon.
Meanwhile, eight other drivers’ chances stay alive as three more races will shape the who will compete for the 2019 championship next month at the Homestead-Miami Speedway. At this moment, Justin Allgaier and Austin Cindric enter the Round of 8 as the hottest drivers in the series.
Allgaier, hasn’t finished outside the top 10 since Daytona in early July. He has 13 consecutive top 10 finishes heading into the opening race of the second round at the Kansas Speedway in two weeks. The JR Motorsports driver came home runner-up on Saturday at Dover as he came home second in both races on the Monster Mile this season. Furthermore, Allgaier has five straight top three finishes on the concrete oval and seven top four’s in his last eight tries.
On the season, Allgaier has five straight top five finishes in his No. 7 Chevrolet and was fourth, fourth and second respectively in the opening round.
Cindric has been just as good. The Team Penske driver finished second in Richmond, third on the Charlotte ROVAL and third again in Dover. He has eight top 10 finishes, seven of which being in the top five, in his last 10 starts on the season in his No. 22 Ford.
Both are great candidates to be battle for the title in Miami next month. But, they’ll have to beat the “Big 3.”
Combined, Christopher Bell, Cole Custer and Tyler Reddick have won 19 of the 29 races run. Throw in Kyle Busch’s four wins and AJ Allmendinger’s win last weekend and you get only five other races won all year among NXS regulars.
But, the “Big 3” kind of struggled in the first round.
Bell, won at Richmond but was only 12th and 25th respectively in his other two starts. Reddick, was 10th, second and 12th himself. Custer, was the best in third, eighth and first.
All three have a huge advantage in playoff points and can almost certainly make the final round on points. But, what happens if none of them win at either Kansas, Texas or Phoenix?
Allgaier, hasn’t won all season as his last win came 37 races ago now. Cindric has won twice but both were on road courses.
Chase Briscoe was fifth in two of the three races and ninth in the other. He’s a legitimate sleeper to get into the final round too. He has a win at Iowa earlier this season.
Michael Annett and Noah Gragson need some major help but never say never.
This round will be enticing. If the “Big 3” don’t get at least two of the three wins, there could be a huge battle amongst them for that final spot.