12 drivers started, four drivers remain in the NASCAR Xfinity Series playoffs. None of the four have ever won an NXS title before, so when the checkered flag drops on Saturday’s race, we’ll have a first time champion in the series.
Here are the four drivers.
Justin Allgaier (No. 7 JR Motorsports Chevrolet Camaro)
Following a three-win season and a second-place finish last weekend at Martinsville Speedway, JR Motorsports’ driver Justin Allgaier punched his ticket to the Championship 4 finale at Phoenix Raceway on Saturday. Allgaier’s season started out as a struggle and it wasn’t until his first win of the season at the first race of the Dover International Speedway doubleheader that things started to turn around. Up until that point, Allgaier had five DNF’s and was involved in various on-track incidents that put him out of races early. However, aside from those issues, his other finishes were consistent, and he was always running up front, having led 932 laps so far this season. Now for the fourth time in five years the veteran driver has a shot at the Xfinity championship in Phoenix – he finished third is his first two Championship 4 appearances (2016, 2017) and fourth in last season’s appearance.
Allgaier has made 32 series starts in 2020 gathering three wins (Dover-1 and both Richmond races), 10 top fives, and 18 top 10s. He has also led 932 laps this season and has managed an average start of 9.5 and an average finish of 13.6. In addition, Allgaier has posted solid season-to-date loop data stats, including a driver rating of 104.0 (fifth-best), an average running position of 8.490 (fifth-best), a total of 449 fastest laps run (third-most), and completed 89.4% of his laps (4,909) in the top 15 (second-best).
Playoff Recap: Allgaier has had an up-and-down Playoff run this season. The first round started off with a fourth-place finish at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. The following week at Talladega, Allgaier finished 29th and the Round of 12 ended at the Charlotte ROVAL, where he finished 23rd. In the next round, he kicked off with a 10th-place finish at Kansas Speedway but went on to Texas Motor Speedway and finished 26th. Martinsville Speedway last weekend was a nail-biter, as he needed every point he could get to solidify his Championship 4 spot but with a second-place finish and a win in Stage 2, Allgaier pulled it off.
Phoenix Outlook: Expect Allgaier to run well this weekend for the title, as he has the most NASCAR Xfinity Series starts (20) at Phoenix Raceway among the Championship 4. Allgaier has two wins (2017, 2019) and seven top fives and 12 top 10s. He has an average start of 10.2 and an average finish of 8.8 and has led 385 laps. With this being the first time the season finale is at Phoenix Raceway, and with Allgaier having won the second race at the track last season, expect the momentum from the No. 7 team to be strong on Saturday.
Crew Chief Corner: Jason Burdett, crew chief for the JR Motorsport’s No. 7 Chevrolet team, began his racing career with several local teams around the Watkins Glen area. In 1998, he transitioned to North Carolina and joined Robert Yates Racing. A year later, he helped Jarrett’s team to the title as a tire specialist. He then moved to Hendrick Motorsports, and in 2001 Burdett earned a second championship with driver Jeff Gordon. In 2007, Burdett joined Michael Waltrip Racing, reuniting with Jarrett, and serving as crew chief of the No. 44 team in the latter half of the season. It was there he honed his skills at the top level of NASCAR competition and leveraged the experience into a return to Hendrick Motorsports in 2008. In the five years since, Burdett excelled as car chief on the No. 24 team from 2008-10 before moving over to Dale Earnhardt Jr.’s No. 88 team from 2011-14. In 2015, he joined JR Motorsports as crew chief of the No. 7 car with driver Regan Smith; the pair finished fourth in series standings that season. Allgaier replaced Smith in the No. 7 car in 2016 and duo has worked together ever since producing 11 wins and four Championship 4 appearances.
Team Talk: JR Motorsports has won three NASCAR Xfinity Series driver championships, all with Sunoco rookies – Chase Elliott in 2014, William Byron (2017) and Tyler Reddick (2018). JR Motorsports began its NASCAR Xfinity Series program in 2005 with driver Mark McFarland and since has won 51 series races; including five this season. JR Motorsports has 1,317 starts in the Xfinity Series with 357 top fives and 744 top 10s.
Chase Briscoe No. 98 Stewart-Haas Racing Ford Mustang)
Following a career-best season, Chase Briscoe punched his ticket to Phoenix in the first race of the Round of 8 at Kansas Speedway. Briscoe was unstoppable this season, racking up nine wins in 32 races. In only his second full-time season in the Xfinity Series, the Mitchell, Indiana driver heads to Phoenix Raceway as one of the favorites to win the championship. It was also announced a few weeks ago that Briscoe will make the jump to the NASCAR Cup Series next season, taking over the No. 14 Stewart-Haas Racing Ford for Clint Bowyer. In 82 Xfinity Series career starts, he has 11 wins.
Briscoe, the 2019 NASCAR Xfinity Series Rookie of the Year, has made 32 series starts in 2020 gathering nine wins (Las Vegas-1, Darlington-1, Homestead-Miami-2, Pocono, Indianapolis Road Course, Dover-2, Bristol-2, Las Vegas-2, Kansas-2), 16 top fives, and 21 top 10s. He has also led 991 laps this season and has managed an average start of 6.4 and an average finish of 8.4. In addition, Briscoe’s season-to-date loop data statistics have been some for the books, too, including a driver rating of 110.2 (second-best), an average running position of 7.722 (third-best), a total of 557 fastest laps run (second-most), and completed 86.6% of his laps (4,561) in the top 15 (sixth-best).
Playoff Recap: With the uncertainty that some of the tracks in the Playoffs brought, Briscoe’s wins in both opening races of the Round of 12 and Round of 8, made his run to the Championship 4 a little bit less stressful. Winning at Las Vegas-2 punched his ticket to the Round of 8 so his 19th-place finish and 18th-place finish at Talladega and the Charlotte ROVAL didn’t completely count him out. He then went on to win at Kansas-2, the opening race of the Round of 8 and has less pressure heading to Texas Motor Speedway, where he finished 24th, and Martinsville Speedway last weekend, where he finished seventh.
Phoenix Outlook: Briscoe has three starts at Phoenix Raceway. He made his debut at the track last season and finished sixth. In the second race at the track in 2019, he finished eighth and earlier this season, he finished sixth. Like every other weekend, expect Briscoe to start at the front and be a race-winning contender during the duration of the race. With more time to prepare for Phoenix than other teams, Briscoe will head into Saturday’s race with momentum on his side.
Crew Chief Corner: As a former child, Richard Boswell can appreciate and understand the needs of his driver and team. Boswell’s motorsports career started by helping his father, Dickie Boswell, working on his late model stock car. His father competed in 57 Xfinity Series races spread over six seasons in the 1980’s. Boswell followed in his father’s footsteps and went on to win multiple World Karting Association national titles in 1998. He graduated to late model racing in 2001 and Dale Earnhardt Jr. noticed Boswell’s talent and brought him over to JR Motorsports in 2006. He piloted the team’s entry in the Hooters Pro Cup Series and made 19 starts with three top fives while also working on the Xfinity Series program for the team. It was then then that Boswell decided to focus on becoming a top crew chief in NASCAR. He earned a mechanical engineering degree from the University of North Carolina at Charlotte, all while racing on his own. In 2014, Boswell worked on Hendrick Motorsports’ No. 48 of Jimmie Johnson and returned to JR Motorsports in 2015. Two years later, Boswell transitioned to Stewart-Haas Racing to lead the team’s part-time effort. Boswell worked with veterans Kevin Harvick and Arica Almirola. After back-to-back part-time schedules with various drivers at SHR, Boswell joined Chase Briscoe full-time in 2019. Together, they have 10 wins, 29 top fives and 47 top 10s.
Team Talk: Stewart-Haas Racing hasn’t won a NASCAR Xfinity Series driver championship yet. The team began its NASCAR Xfinity Series program in 2017 and has since won 18 races, nine of them in this season. Stewart-Haas Racing finished runner-up last season with Cole Custer in the Championship 4. Briscoe made the Playoffs but was eliminated in the Round of 8 in 2019. By virtue of Custer’s second-place finish in the 2018 finale, the team won their first Xfinity Series owners’ championship by one point over Chip Ganassi Racing.
Austin Cindric (No. 22 Team Penske Ford Mustang)
It was a career season for Austin Cindric, who grabbed five wins with three of them coming back-to-back. Cindric swept the Kentucky Speedway doubleheader weekend and then went on to win at the first Texas Motor Speedway. Cindric, who announced that he would return to the Team Penske No. 22 in 2021, also announced that he would be promoted to the NASCAR Cup Series in 2022, taking over the No. 21 Wood Brothers Racing Ford. Cindric’s first win at Kentucky automatically put him in the Playoffs.
Cindric has made 32 series starts in 2020 gathering five wins (Kentucky-1 & 2, Texas-1, Road America and Daytona Road Course), 18 top fives, and 25 top 10s. He has also led 875 laps this season and has managed an average start of 6.6 and an average finish of 8.9. In addition, Cindric has posted great numbers in season-to-date loop data stats, including a driver rating of 111.0 (series-best), an average running position of 7.530 (second-best), a total of 571 fastest laps run (series-best), and completed 86.2% of his laps (4,544) in the top 15 (seventh-best).
Playoff Recap: In the Round of 12, Cindric finished in sixth place in the Playoffs opener at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. The following week at Talladega Superspeedway, Cindric finished 34th and looked to the following week at the Charlotte ROVAL to clinch his spot in the next round. At the ROVAL, he finished with another sixth-place finish. In the Round of 8, Cindric struggled after being involved in a couple on-track incidents and opened the round at Kansas Speedway with a 28th-place result. But a fourth-place finish at Texas-2 and a 10th-place finish last weekend at Martinsville were good enough to punch his ticket to the Championship 4.
Phoenix Outlook: Cindric has had pretty good results at Phoenix Raceway in the past and you can expect him to be running up front on Saturday. This weekend will mark his sixth start at the track. He has two top fives and four top 10s in those starts. He’s led 25 laps and has an average start of 6.6 and an average finish of 7.8. Cindric was eliminated from the Playoffs last season and in 2018 in the Round of 8. This will be Cindric’s first Championship 4 appearance.
Crew Chief Corner: Brian Wilson, crew chief or the No. 22 Team Penske Ford, joined Team Penske in 2004. He first served as a shock specialist with the team. Since then, he has served as a race engineer on the No. 22 NASCAR Xfinity Series team as well as the No. 2 NASCAR Cup Series team. Wilson played a role in the first two championships. He was the race engineer on the No. 22 team that won the Xfinity Series title in 2010 and was also the race engineer in 2012 on the No. 2 Cup Series team. In 2016, Team Penske announced that Wilson would be the crew chief for the No. 22 Xfinity Series Ford. Since he was named crew chief in 2016, he has 129 starts, 17 wins, 66 top fives and 99 top 10s.
Team Talk: Team Penske won three consecutive NASCAR Xfinity Series owner championships from 2013-15, tying Roger Penske with William Baumgardner and Joe Gibbs for the longest consecutive streak in series history. Team Penske added a fourth owner championship in 2017. This year marks Team Penske’s 18th year competing in the Xfinity Series. The team has 630 starts, 75 victories, 295 top fives and 436 top 10s.
Justin Haley (No. 11 Kaulig Racing Chevrolet Camaro)
Justin Haley is also having a career-best season in 2020. In only his second full-time season in the Xfinity Series, Haley captured his first career victory at Talladega Superspeedway. He then went on to win at Daytona International Speedway and the second race at Talladega Superspeedway. Haley’s third win of his career and third of the season at Talladega marked his third straight victory in a superspeedway event, a streak matched only by Dale Earnhardt and Dale Earnhardt Jr.
Haley has made 32 series starts in 2020 gathering three wins (Talladega-1 & 2, Daytona-2), 10 top fives, and 20 top 10s. He has led 113 laps this season and has managed an average start of 7.3 and an average finish of 10.4. In addition, Haley has posted solid season-to-date loop data stats, including a driver rating of 96.6 (seventh-best), an average running position of 9.225 (seventh-best), a total of 185 fastest laps run (eighth-most), and completed 87.9% of his laps (4,629) in the top 15 (fifth-best).
Playoff Recap: Haley has been extremely consistent during the duration of the Playoffs. At the opener in Las Vegas, Haley finished 10th and then he went on to win at Talladega, securing his spot in the Round of 8. At the Charlotte ROVAL, he finished 35th but didn’t have to worry since he won the week prior. In the Round of 8 opener at Kansas Speedway, Haley finished fourth and the following week at Texas, he finished seventh. Last weekend, Haley’s 12th-place finish was just enough to get him into the Championship 4.
Phoenix Outlook: Saturday will be Haley’s fourth start at Phoenix Raceway in his Xfinity Series career. He has one top five and two top 10s, his best finish coming most recently earlier this season in fifth. He completed all laps attempted at the track and has an average start of 12.7 and average finish of 8.0.
Crew Chief Corner: Alex Yontz, crew chief for the No. 11 Chevrolet of Justin Haley, has been crew chief since July 2019. Yontz is in his 18th year in racing after getting his start in go-karts at a young age. He went on to race in various series including Legends cars, Late Models, ASA National Series, ARCA and the Gander Trucks. Yontz has 55 starts as a crew chief for Kaulig Racing in the Xfinity Series. He has for wins, 14 top fives and 30 top 10s. This is his first Championship 4 appearance.
Team Talk: This weekend will mark Kaulig Racing’s first Championship 4 appearance. In 2019, Haley made it to the Playoffs but was eliminated in the Round of 12. In 2018, Ryan Truex made the Xfinity Series Playoffs but was also eliminated in the Round of 12. In 2017, Blake Koch made the Playoffs for the second season in a row but only made it to the first round. Kaulig Racing’s first start in the Xfinity Series was in 2016. In the team’s five years, the have 224 starts, seven wins, 41 top fives and 105 top 10s.
NASCAR Xfinity Series, Etc.
Sunoco Rookie of the Year finale – It will be hard for Harrison Burton to not win the Sunoco Rookie of the Year award for the 2020 NASCAR Xfinity Series. Burton has 2,211 points and leads Riley Herbst in second by 32 points. Burton has won 21 awards and Herbst has won nine.
Xfinity Owner championship update – The four cars and drivers that made it to the driver Playoff standings Championship 4 are the same in the owner Playoff standings this season; guaranteeing a unified driver and owner championship this year.
Manufacturers championship – Chevrolet is currently leading the OEM championship standings with 10 wins and 1,155 points. Ford is in second with 14 wins and 1,126 points. Toyota is sitting in third with eight wins and 1,069 points.