The NASCAR XFINITY Series is back in action this weekend at the Texas Motor Speedway. Saturday night’s O’Reilly Auto Parts 300 will be the penultimate race of the second round. Once the checkered flag drops for this weekend’s race, just one race remains to settle who will race for the championship in a couple of weeks at the Homestead-Miami Speedway.
But, as we sit here today, we likely already know who three of those four drivers are going to be. With Brandon Jones’ upset win in the last race at Kansas, we know that two of the four spots to the Championship 4 will be made on points. The “Big 3” have such a large margin over everyone else, that I think all three are set.
Christopher Bell leads the standings at +49. Cole Custer is second at +38. Tyler Reddick is third at +37. Then, you have a 35 point differential between Reddick and Justin Allgaier in fourth.
But, Allgaier holds a slim two point lead on that final spot over Chase Briscoe. Michael Annett is next at 12 points back while Noah Gragson (-17) and Austin Cindric (-30) round out the playoff field.
Plus, I can see one of the “Big 3” drivers winning on Saturday night anyways. Combined, they’ve won 19 of the 30 races run in 2019.
Custer, is the defending Texas Playoff race winner. The Stewart-Haas Racing driver led 16 laps and grabbed the checked flag last season to secure his position in the Championship 4. Texas is one of Custer’s best tracks too. In five starts he has one win (2018 Playoffs), four top fives and an average finish of 9.8 (best of the Big 3). He comes to this weekend having scored eight straight top 11 finishes and 10 in the last 11. His Texas finishes are – 5th, 5th, 4th, 1st and 34th respectively.
For Bell, he was 6th, 2nd, 32nd and third respectively in four starts in the series at Texas. He led 127 laps back in the spring race. He’s won the pole for each of the last two races on the 1.5-mile track as well. Also, while he has three straight races with finishes outside the top 10 on the season and four in the last six, he also has four top two finishes in his last eight starts on the year as well.
Then there’s Reddick. He’s finished runner-up in each of his last two Texas starts. He’s finished second in two of the last three races on the season too. Overall, he has 11 top five finishes in his last 14 starts on the season.
These are the three to beat.
Allgaier though, has struggled some at Texas. His fifth place run in last year’s race is his lone top five in 18 career NXS starts. He’s also had one top 10 in his last five Texas starts in general. On the flipside, the JR Motorsports driver has six consecutive top five finishes on the season including 14 straight top 10’s dating back to mid July at the Kentucky Speedway.
Briscoe has only raced in the spring race at Texas posting 11th and fourth place finishes respectively. In two Truck Series starts he was second and fourth respectively. On the season, the SHR driver has four straight top 10 finishes, three of which being in the top five and 14 straight top 11 finishes. He will keep Allgaier on his toes.
Annett was sixth back in March but that’s his lone top 10 at Texas since 2012. He does have three top 10 finishes in his last four starts on the season though.
His teammate Gragson was 13th in the spring race and had three 10th place finishes and a seventh place run in four Truck Series starts at Texas. He does have seven top 10 finishes in his last eight starts on the year.
That leaves Cindric who has finishes of 9th, 3rd and 11th in three NXS starts at Texas. He was second in one of his two Truck Series starts in the LoneStar state back in 2017 too. The Team Penske driver has three top three finishes in his last four starts on the season. The problem with him is, 30 points is a lot to make up when the drivers in front of him are so consistent.
That’s why Texas is going to be so intense on Saturday night. All eight can finish in the top 10 and I can make a valid case for at least five or six of these drivers to reach victory lane. If someone outside of the “Big 3” wins but is also a playoff driver, that could all but seal the Championship 4.
It will be hard for someone to beat Bell, Custer or Reddick in Phoenix.