Who wins Saturday’s NXS season finale and championships at Phoenix (8:30 p.m. ET, NBCSN, MRN)

Race Day Schedule

1 pm: Garage Opens

8 pm: Drivers To Cars

8:05 pm: Driver Intros

8:30 pm: Invocation

8:31 pm: National Anthem

8:38 pm: Command

8:46 pm: Green Flag


Race Details

Coverage: 8:30 p.m. ET

Green Flag: 8:46 p.m. ET

TV: NBCSN

Radio: MRN

Computer: NASCAR.com

Phone: NASCAR App

Race Distance: 200 Laps/200 Miles

Stage Lengths: 45-45-110

Competition Caution: Lap

Race Official: Lap 90

Playoffs: Championship 4

Track: Phoenix Raceway


4 of the 6 Races Have Been Won By Non Playoff Driver Does That Occur On Saturday

Six races are into the 2021 NASCAR Xfinity Series playoffs and one remains. With that said, four of the six have been won by a non playoff driver. Does the last?

A non playoff driver won two of the three races in the Round of 8 after being 2-for-3 in the opening round too. Josh Berry won the postseason opener in Las Vegas. Brandon Brown won a week later in Talladega. AJ Allmendinger became the one and only playoff driver to win on the ROVAL while John Hunter Nemechek and Ty Gibbs have each won in the JGR No. 54 Toyota in the Round of 8 at Texas and Kansas respectively.

Does it happen on Saturday even though we have a championship to decide?

The thing is, this is a clinch race like the ROVAL and Martinsville and in both instances prior, a playoff eligible driver won. Last year, Austin Cindric won the race and took home the title as well. They finished 1-5-8-9 that day. Same for 2019 at Homestead. Championship drivers went 1-2-5-14. Same for 2018 too. It was 1-2-4-11. You get the trend. It’s happened four of the last five years so in order to win the title on Saturday night in the Arizona desert, you’re more than likely going to have to win the race.



KANSAS CITY, KANSAS – OCTOBER 23: Ty Gibbs, driver of the #54 Monster Energy Toyota, celebrates after winning the NASCAR Xfinity Series Kansas Lottery 300 at Kansas Speedway on October 23, 2021 in Kansas City, Kansas. (Photo by Meg Oliphant/Getty Images)


Joe Gibbs Racing Hoping For Dual Titles This Weekend

Daniel Hemric is going for the drivers championship on Saturday. John Hunter Nemechek is hoping for a different title the same organization.

The No. 54 Toyota for Joe Gibbs Racing that Nemechek is driving isn’t going for a drivers championship but they are an owners. That’s a big deal in the garage.

Nemechek, last raced in the Xfinity Series at Phoenix back in 2019 when he finished fourth on this very weekend. He was ninth in his previous two starts. The thing is, JGR has won 11 times in the Xfinity Series this season overall and all have come via this car.

That car serves as the entry where part time drivers fill. Kyle Busch, Denny Hamlin, Martin Truex Jr., Christopher Bell, Ty Gibbs, Ty Dillon and John Hunter Nemechek have all driven this car. They’ve combined to win those 11 races including being 2-for-3 last round.

They’re going against the No. 9 JRM Chevrolet, No. 16 Kaulig Racing Chevrolet and No. 22 Team Penske Ford for the owners title.

Hemric’s No. 18 Toyota is in the drivers championship but not the owners. The thing is, he’s 0-for-207 in his NASCAR career and going to a track to where his last three NXS finishes are 30th, 25th and 23th respectively. In Cup, he was 18th and 21st respectively. In Trucks, he was 13th, 21st and 13th again respectively.

He did finish runner-up in this very race in 2018 as it was one of his 10 career second place finishes so far. Can he turn the tide around at Phoenix?

His teammates have all been good here. Brandon Jones won in the spring of 2020 and was third in the Fall. He has four top sevens in his last six starts.

Harrison Burton has four top sevens in his five career Phoenix starts that span across both NXS and Trucks.



Gragson Ready For Championship

Noah Gragson can rub some people wrong. I get that. But, how he raced everyone on Saturday night in Martinsville should also gain him some respect too. See, with him needing to win to get in, he could have bulldozed everyone in front of him. He could have ran Daniel Hemric wrong in the end. He could have punted Austin Cindric who made a move at him for the win on the final lap.

Instead, he chose to not make any contact or rub them in any way. He was clean and respectful and earned a championship saving win last weekend. Now, he’s hoping to make up for last year’s postseason that saw him finish in the top three in literally all but one playoff race. The crash in Vegas cost him a shot at advancing to the final round at Phoenix which was a race he finished runner-up in.

Now, he’s got that chance this season in hopes of turning a tough start to the year to a championship campaign.

Gragson started 2021 with a crash at Daytona (32nd). He was 28th and 33rd respectively the next two races. In fact, out of the opening 13 races to the season, the JR Motorsports driver finished 15th or worse in eight of them including seven of them being 27th or worse.

But, once we got to Texas in the summer, that’s when everything turned back around. He rattled off 11 top 10’s in a 12 race span including two victories. If you cut that in the middle at the Indianapolis road course on Aug. 14, Gragson has scored eight top six finishes over the last nine races.

That puts him to Phoenix as the one flying under the radar with a chance to end on top. He also has won two of the last three short track races with three top 10’s in his last four stars at Phoenix too.

He’d give JRM three titles in the last five years and four in the last seven. All by different drivers. It would also be the third time the driver of the No. 9 Chevrolet has won the NXS title in the last five years too joining William Byron (2017) and Tyler Reddick (2018).



Cindric Eyeing Back-To-Back Championships

This is what Austin Cindric is hoping his last chance to go for an Xfinity Series championship on Saturday. See, the Team Penske driver is graduating up to a Cup ride next year and he hopes he does good enough in NASCAR’s premiere series to not get sent back down here to Xfinity to fight for another title.

Seven times has someone gone back-to-back in terms of titles in NXS competition and Cindric is wanting to become the eighth.

Sam Ard (83-84)

Larry Pearson (86-87)

Randy LaJoie (96-97)

Dale Earnhardt Jr. (98-99)

Martin Truex Jr. (04-05)

Ricky Stenhouse Jr. (11-12)

Tyler Reddick (18-19)

Can Cindric also give Penske their third title in the series too joining Brad Keselowski’s (2010) and his (2020). He’s got the advantage. He won this race last year. He won here again in the spring and has four top two finishes in seven short track starts in 2021.

He won the season opener at Daytona and looking to bookend the year with a second straight title after having 10 top six finishes in the first 12 races of the season and eight in the final 10 of the year too.



Prediction:

  1. 22 Cindric – Why not back-to-back? He won this moment last year, won this spring and has a pair of runner-ups in each of his last two short track starts on the season as well as two wins earlier too. In his last six Phoenix NXS starts, his worst finish is eighth with four of the six seeing him finish in the top five.
  2.  9 Gragson – He was runner-up in this race last year and has three top 10’s in his last four NXS starts at Phoenix. He has won two of the last three short track races on the schedule too. Also, Gragson was runner-up in the 2018 Truck Series race in November of that year as well as having 10 top sevens in his last 12 starts on the year.
  3. 54 Nemechek – This car has been too good for it to finish any further back.
  4. 19 Jones – This will be his third top four in his last four Phoenix starts. Jones, also has five top six finishes in his last seven starts on the season.
  5.  7 Allgaier – He’s always a threat at Phoenix and has five straight top fives on short track starts on the season as well as finishing fifth in this very race last year.

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