After a week off, the NASCAR XFINITY Series drivers return to the track this weekend for the Fitzgerald Glider Kits 300 (1 p.m. ET/FS1/PRN) at the Bristol Motor Speedway. This weekend’s race though, should have some intense racing on the .533-mile high banked Tennessee oval. It’s not just the fact that it’s short track racing, but the stage racing, the return of the lower groove and the second leg of the Dash 4 Cash should significantly improve the action on Saturday afternoon.
The highest finishing two XFINITY Series regular from each of the first two stages, will race it out in the final stage for the Dash 4 Cash this weekend. The highest finisher of those four (even if they aren’t the race winner) will earn a $100,000 bonus. While race wins are the most important goal, the chance to win a six figure monetary sum is not lost among the drivers.
“Ultimately as drivers we are all looking for the win,” said Justin Allgaier, who won the first Dash 4 Cash prize earlier this month at Phoenix. “If you don’t win, you want to have a high finish and earn that nice consolation prize. But if you can do both at the same time, it’s even better.”
Allgaier, is in a unique position when it comes to the 2017 Dash 4 Cash run, being the only driver who can sweep the four races. If he is able to accomplish the feat, he will earn an additional $600,000. Add that to the $100,000 each for the four bonuses and the JR Motorsports driver could walk away with a whopping $1 million.
“That influx of money is great for the XFINITY teams and it helps with budgets,” said Allgaier, who won the Spring 2010 XFINITY Series event. “If we could win the Bristol Dash 4 Cash, it would be a huge moment for us.”
Last season’s Fitzgerald Glider Kits featured a race win/Dash 4 Cash sweep as Erik Jones visited Victory Lane. The win will give confidence to drivers as they prepare for one of the toughest few hours in XFINITY Series racing: 300 laps around the half-mile high banks of The Last Great Colosseum.
In addition to the Dash 4 Cash, XFINITY Series drivers will be making loops around Bristol with the new stage format. Announced at the beginning of the year, all races in NASCAR’s top three series will feature three stages. The Stage 1 or Stage 2 winners will earn 10 additional points and a playoff point, with the top 10 also earning regular season points. The winner of Stage 3 will earn the race victory and move closer to a spot in the 2017 playoffs.
The Fitzgerald Glider Kits 300 will feature three stages consisting of 85 laps, 85 laps and 130 laps. XFINITY Series rookie and Richard Childress Racing driver Daniel Hemric contends that the stage format will add even more excitement to Bristol compared to other venues.
“That action you’ve seen [at other tracks] is always going to be doubled at Bristol,” said Hemric. “You’re already on edge here, running side-by-side, nose-to-tail. The action is going to be intense and everyone is going to be amped up that much more.”
Last August, BMS treated the track to improve the lower groove. The result saw three exciting August races, including an XFINITY Series race that fans, drivers and media have claimed to be one of the most exciting in series history. The success of the procedure has led Speedway officials to decide to repeat the process for this coming weekend, an announcement that has drawn many favorable responses from the garage area.
“It’s great to have another tool to utilize,” said Hemric, who was a part of the exciting NASCAR Camping World Truck Series August race. “Everybody saw as the races played out that the bottom groove had a ton of grip. The pace was up and the action was up. It’s cool to know that we will have that again.”
The added elements should create a new challenge to Bristol. But no matter what level of experience, Bristol has always been a place where the best of the best rises to the top. For XFINITY Series regular Cole Custer, he is looking forward to his first series start at the Speedway. He believes his positive momentum from a fifth place finish at Texas Motor Speedway will help him as he prepares for Bristol.
“We’ve had pretty solid cars the last few weeks,” said Custer, who is the first ever XFINITY Series driver for Stewart-Haas Racing. “If we can keep these solid runs going, we will work our way up. We will just keep plugging away.”