Saturday’s United Rentals 200 (4:30 p.m. ET, FS1, MRN) race preview

JGR’s Ty Gibbs wins big in Vegas, looks to carry momentum to Phoenix

Last year’s NASCAR Xfinity Series Sunoco Rookie of the Year and Joe Gibbs Racing driver, Ty Gibbs, won his first race of the 2022 season in the ALSCO Uniforms 300 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway last weekend. The win marked the fifth victory in his NASCAR Xfinity Series career, having previously won at the Daytona Road Course, Charlotte Motor Speedway, Watkins Glen International and Kansas Speedway during his rookie campaign last season. Now the rising star is looking to keep the momentum going this weekend at Phoenix Raceway. 

It’s no surprise that the 19-year-old, Gibbs, has had success in his NASCAR Xfinity Series career thus far. With Coy Gibbs and NASCAR Hall of Famer Joe Gibbs to show you the ropes, one can assume that Ty Gibbs is gaining a lot of expertise – and it shows. Last season. Gibbs became the sixth driver in NASCAR Xfinity Series history to win in his series debut, joining Dale Earnhardt (Daytona, 1982), Joe Ruttman (Dover, 1982), Ricky Rudd (Dover, 1983), Terry Labonte (Charlotte, 1985) and Kurt Busch (Texas, 2006). That same season, he also won the ARCA Menards Series Championship and of course, the NASCAR Xfinity Series Sunoco Rookie of the Year honors.

Gibbs will look to post his second win of the season at Phoenix Raceway this weekend. He currently sits in second place in the series driver standings with 127 points, just 17 points behind Noah Gragson in the standings lead. Gibbs was impressive in his series track debut at Phoenix Raceway last season (Spring race); he started 27th and raced his way up to a runner-up finish.

NASCAR Xfinity Series stays in the desert

For the fourth race of the season, the NASCAR Xfinity Series is jumping from Las Vegas Motor Speedway to Phoenix Raceway for the United Rentals 200 on Saturday, March 12 at 4:30 p.m. ET (FS1, MRN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio).

This will be the 41st NASCAR Xfinity Series race at the 1-mile track that has had 20 different pole winners and 21 different race winners in the series. Kyle Busch leads the Xfinity Series with 11 wins (2007, 2008, 2010, twice in 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016, 2019) and 10 poles at Phoenix.

Fans were last in Phoenix for the 2021 NASCAR Xfinity Series Championship and saw Daniel Hemric beat Austin Cindric by a margin of 0.030-second, which is the smallest margin of victory in Phoenix Raceway history for a NASCAR Xfinity Series race.

Hemric returns to Phoenix Raceway this weekend hoping to become the third different driver to win back-to-back races at the 1-mile track; joining Kyle Busch (2007-2008; 2013 sweep-2014; 2015-2016 sweep) and Austin Cindric (2020-2021). 

Joining Hemric for a shot at a second victory at Phoenix Raceway is his Joe Gibbs Racing teammate Brandon Jones who won in 2020. Also, on the list of previous winners competing this weekend is JR Motorsport’s Justin Allgaier, who is looking for a three-peat after having won in 2017 and 2019.

It appears the three drivers are itching for their first win of the season as they all posted a top-10 finish last weekend at Las Motor Speedway – Hemric (third-place), Allgaier (fifth-place) and Jones (10thplace).

Xfinity Series Sunoco Rookie of the Year Update

Through three this season the 2022 Sunoco Rookie of the Year standings are starting to tighten up. Following his Daytona win to open the season Austin Hill still leads the rookie standings with 74 points, followed by Sheldon Creed with 66 points, Kyle Sieg with 21 points and Jesse Iwuji with 14 points.  

For the driver of the No. 2 Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet, things are starting look up. Sheldon Creed posted his second top-10 finish this season, finishing the ALSCO Uniforms 300 in seventh. His other top 10 was in Daytona where he placed sixth.

But for Creed’s RCR teammate Austin Hill, things haven’t gone as planned after his win in Daytona. This past weekend in Las Vegas, he was involved in an incident that left him in 31st place.

Jesse Iwuji also met the same fate in Las Vegas, finishing in 34th-place after an incident with 44 laps to go.

Heading into Phoenix, three of the four rookies made their NASCAR Xfinity Series track debut at Phoenix Raceway last November with Sheldon Creed putting up the best finish with a 10th, followed by Kyle Sieg’s 27th and Jesse Iwuji’s 30th. Austin Hill is the lone rookie this weekend making his series track debut. 

NASCAR Xfinity Series, Etc.

Different Faces in Familiar Places – This weekend in Phoenix Raceway in the NASCAR Xfinity Series garage fans will notice several different faces piloting the cars they have become familiar with in the United Rentals 200 on Saturday.

Joe Gibbs Racing has tapped 2011 Daytona 500 winner, Trevor Bayne to jump back in the No. 18 Toyota this weekend in Phoenix. Bayne has made 10 Xfinity Series starts at Phoenix collecting one top-five and six top-10 finishes. His last start at Phoenix in the series was back in 2014.

Sam Hunt Racing will have NASCAR Camping World Truck Series star John Hunter Nemechek grappling the No. 26 Toyota this weekend in Phoenix. Look for Nemechek to have a good run this weekend, in his four previous starts at the 1-mile track he has posted one top five and four top 10s.

And Reaume Brothers Racing is welcoming our international friend Loris Hezemans, from Eindhoven, Netherlands, to pilot the No. 33 Toyota this weekend. Hezemans will attempt to make his 2022 season debut and just his second series career start at Phoenix Raceway. In his first start at the 1-mile track he started 40th and finished 31st in this race last season. 

Takeaways leaving Vegas and heading to Phoenix.

Xfinity Series

  • Ty Gibbs could go down as one of the next great stars. The grandson of Joe Gibbs scored his 5th win already in just his 21st career NXS start. He had 18 wins in only 47 ARCA starts too including last year’s title. While he rubs people off wrong, that’s exactly what NASCAR needs as a talented driver that’s not afraid to mix it up. Sounds like another JGR Cup driver that could be teammates with this kid soon…
  • 2 of the 3 races has seen a series regular victorious. Austin Hill won in Daytona and now Gibbs in Vegas.
  • Hill has had some bad luck since that Daytona win. He was 27th in Fontana and just 31st in Vegas. Good thing he has that win banked away.
  • Hill’s fellow rookie RCR teammate has actually been more consistent. Sheldon Creed was 6th in Daytona and 7th in Vegas for a pair of top 10’s in three starts.
  • JRM looks like the best overall team right now.
    • Noah Gragson has been the best of all with three straight top three finishes to start 2022 including a pair of runner-up’s the last two weeks. If you go back to last season, the JRM driver has five top three’s in his last seven overall and 13 top 7’s in his last 17.
    • Gragson’s JRM teammate of Justin Allgaier is doing what Allgaier always does by flying under the radar. He was 5th in Daytona, 8th in Fontana and 5th again last week in Las Vegas.
    • Don’t sleep on Josh Berry either. He was fourth in each of the last two weeks.
    • Sam Mayer is the one with the most room to grow. He has been 25th or worse in 2 of the 3 weeks but sixth in the middle at Fontana.
  • AJ Allmendinger is sitting right there too with finishing 2nd, 7th and 9th respectively so far this year.
  • Rough title defense for Hemric so far. He swept the stages at Daytona but finished 28th. He was 12th a week later in Fontana. Last week, he turned the corner and was 3rd in Vegas and now heads to the site that he won the championship last November as well as his 1 and only NASCAR victory too.

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