The NASCAR XFINITY Series drivers will take to the Charlotte Motor Speedway this weekend for the final race of the opening round of the playoffs. 12 drivers are still alive for this year’s championship, but that list will drop to eight upon the completion of this weekend’s Drive For The Cure 300 (3 p.m. ET/NBCSN/PRN) at the 1.5-mile North Carolina track.
The first two races of the opening round have been won by non XFINITY Series regulars. With the top six of the playoff standings sitting comfortably in for round two, I don’t see them pushing too hard to ruin that.
With that being said, here are the five favorites.
The Team Penske driver won last weekend’s race at Dover as well as the XFINITY Series race at Charlotte back in May. It’s obvious why he’s the favorite again. Blaney, has made five starts in XFINITY Series competition at Charlotte, three of which have resulted in a top 10 finish. On top of that, Blaney has made nine XFINITY Series starts already this season, seven of those races saw him land a top two result.
In practice on Friday, he sat the first session out while being second quickest in final practice later on in the day.
Sam Hornish Jr.
He will be making just his fifth start of the season, but he’s got a great shot at a second win. Hornish, won in the No. 22 Ford for Penske at Mid-Ohio back in August. Now, he’s in the No. 12 Ford, while Blaney will pilot the No. 22 entry this weekend. But, the reason BOTH Penske drivers make this list is all because of a Penske driver winning each of the last two XFINITY Series races at Charlotte. In fact, it was with two different drivers (Joey Logano – October 2016, Ryan Blaney – May 2017). Can Hornish make it three-for-three?
The common denominator out of those two wins was each was in the No. 12 Ford.
Hornish last raced in the series at Charlotte in 2013, he finished third. I think he’s got a shot this weekend. The Ohio native was sixth quickest in the opening practice session and quickest in happy hour.
You can’t have this list and leave the “Jones boy” off. Jones, may have just one top five finish over his last five series starts, but I think his No. 20 Toyota will be strong this weekend. Jones, will be making his fifth start at Charlotte on Saturday, as two of his last three XFINITY Series starts on the 1.5-mile track have resulted in a top five effort. In fact, in his last three starts at Charlotte, he qualified third, first and second respectively.
He was fourth and fifth respectively in practice.
Look what we have here, another non XFINITY Series regular. But, you can’t overlook Austin Dillon this weekend. He has nine top 10 finishes in 13 XFINITY Series starts this season, one of which was a third place effort at Charlotte back in May. Now that he’s been eliminated from Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series playoff competition, he can take his aggression out on the field at Charlotte.
Plus, Dillon is very good at his hometown track. He won his first and only Cup race here back in May in the Coca-Cola 600. The North Carolina native also won both XFINITY Series races at Charlotte in 2015. In fact, Dillon has five top three finishes at Charlotte over his last six XFINITY Series starts.
He sat out the initial practice session and was ninth in final practice.
I look for his No. 2 Chevrolet to be strong on Saturday.
It’s been a struggle for XFINITY Series regulars to get to victory lane lately. The only regular recently to get to victory lane is Allgaier and that came at Chicagoland three races ago. I think the JR Motorsports driver is a contender for this weekend’s race. After all, the Illinois native has five straight top eight finishes on the season, including recent finishes of first, third and second respectively in his No. 7 Chevrolet.
Allgaier, has made 14 career XFINITY Series starts at Charlotte, with nabbing eight top 10 finishes over the last 11 of them.
In practice, Allgaier was fastest in the first session and 12th in final practice.