Five races remain in the 2017 NASCAR XFINITY Series regular season. With a stand alone event on a road course happening again next weekend, and two of the other four being short tracks, that makes this weekend’s race at the Bristol (Tenn) Motor Speedway even more important. Currently, 14 of the 21 races have been won by Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series regulars. Two more races were won by part-time drivers in Ryan Preece (Iowa) and Sam Hornish Jr. (Mid-Ohio). That leaves five races left that were won by XFINITY Series regulars. William Byron won two of them.
With several Cup drivers entered in the Food City 300 (7:30 p.m. ET/NBCSN/PRN) it will make things certainly interesting to say the least on the .533-mile track.
Here are the main storylines.
Star Studded Field
As I was saying, there are a lot of Cup drivers on this weekend’s entry-list. Seven of them to be exact. Among those seven, four of which are previous winners including all but two races since this August race in 2010 being won by an XFINITY Series driver. Kyle Busch for example has won an XFINITY Series race at Bristol seven times in that same time frame.
He’s entered in this weekend’s race.
So are both Dillon brothers, Austin is the defending race winner. Also is Daniel Suarez, Joey Logano, Aric Almirola and Dale Earnhardt Jr. will make an appearance this weekend.
There’s a safe bet one of these drivers are going to win on Friday night.
Dale Earnhardt Jr. Making Bristol XFINTY Series Apperance
As you noticed, Dale Earnhardt Jr. will run double-duty this weekend. His only Bristol Cup victory came in the night race in 2004. He also entered the XFINITY Series race that season too and won as well. Since then, he’s only made two more Bristol XFINITY Series appearances, one in 2005 and the other in 2009. He finished in the top 10 in each.
In fact, he hasn’t made an XFINITY Series appearance overall in over a full year. But, he won that race though at Richmond in April 2016.
Can he win both races again this weekend just as he did in 2004?
JGR XFINITY Series Sweep at Bristol?
Erik Jones won at Bristol in April, now Kyle Busch, Matt Tifft and Daniel Suarez will try to give JGR a Bristol XFINITY Series sweep for 2017. It would be just the second time that they’ve ever been able to do that. The last coming in 2011.
Kyle Busch Motorsports did so in 2013, but they weren’t officially “JGR.”
The only other teams to accomplish that rare feat was Gary Bechtel in 1995 and Theresa Earnhardt in 2004.
Can JGR do it again?
Can an XFINITY Series Regular Win?
This is all tying together nicely, as you can see a common theme from one point to the other. With the top three being said, can this point come true? If it is, I wouldn’t look much further than JR Motorsports (minus Dale Earnhardt Jr. of course). Junior is running this weekend but he’s a Cup regular. But, his teammates could win.
Since 2010, just three XFINITY Series regulars have won at Bristol, two of which are with JGR right now. Justin Allgaier won the spring race in 2010 for Penske but now he’s with JR Motorsports. Elliott Sadler won with JR Motorsports in 2012 while Ryan Blaney won with Penske in 2014.
I would watch out for Sadler and Allgaier as well as William Byron. After all, Byron has won all the big races this season, winning at Daytona and Indy, why not the night time Bristol race too? He also won a night time short track race at Iowa back in June too.
Ben Kennedy won last year’s NASCAR Camping World Truck Series race at Bristol and is entered in the No. 96 Chevrolet for GMS Racing. He too could be a factor.
Other than that, this could be a Cup dominated show.
There’s nine spots open for wildcard drivers for this year’s playoffs, eight of which appear to be all but locked in. Elliott Sadler has a 387 point advantage. He leads the overall standings but hasn’t won yet. But, he won at Bristol in 2012.
Brennan Poole is 205 points up himself. Rookies Daniel Hemric (+191) Cole Custer (+129) and Matt Tifft (+118) also appear to be well on their way to the playoffs in their first full-time seasons.
But, the bubble spots are heating up. Dakoda Armstrong and Blake Koch each are 55 points up. Brendan Gaughan is now 11th, 45 points to the good. Michael Annett is squarly on the bubble having a 34 point advantage.
But, Ryan Sieg (-34) JJ Yeley (-46) Ross Chastain (-47) and Brandon Jones (-65) are right there with them.