After a week off, the NASCAR XFINITY Series drivers will return to action this weekend for the Kansas Lottery 300 (3 p.m. ET/NBC/MRN). The season is winding down as this weekend’s race at the Kansas Speedway will be the first event of the second round. As we get deeper and deeper into the year, the lack of Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series drivers will be entering in these races.
That’s great news for the still eligible eight playoff drivers, as they won’t have their spots taken up by current Cup drivers.
With that being said, here are the top five things to watch for this weekend.
1st Playoff Race Of The 2nd Round
The points are reset and eight drivers are left standings heading to this weekend’s race at Kansas. While it’s not necessarily imperative to come away with a win on Saturday, a solid top 10 finish is. We’re going to weed this group down to just four drivers left leaving Phoenix in two weeks, so you can’t afford to come away with anything short of a top 10 finish in any of these three races in this round.
Another Non Playoff Winner?
As we enter the fourth playoff race of the 2017 season, we’re still waiting for the first win by a playoff contender. In the first round, Chip Ganassi Racing and Team Penske swept the victories, but neither of their victors were playoff eligible.
Tyler Reddick and Alex Bowman won in the No. 42 Chevrolet at Kentucky and Charlotte, while Ryan Blaney won the penultimate race of the round in the No. 22 Ford at Dover. Will that trend continue this weekend at Kansas?
Winner Will Join Elite Company
Take a look at past winners of this race in XFINITY Series competition. Kyle Busch has won the last three years there. Matt Kenseth won in 2013. Before Kenseth, Ricky Stenhouse Jr. won in 2012. Before Stenhouse, current Team Penske drivers in Brad Keselowski (2011) and Joey Logano (2009, 2010) won. Before them, it was Denny Hamlin (2008), Busch again (2007), Kevin Harvick (2006), Kasey Kahne (2005), Joe Nemechek (2004), David Green (2003), Jeff Burton (2002) and Jeff Green (2001). All 12 drivers are legends.
Someone new will join them on Saturday afternoon.
Can Byron Get Better On 1.5-Mile Tracks
William Byron hasn’t won in 11 races. Can that change this round? If it will, he’s going to have to get better quickly on 1.5-mile tracks. So far this season, the rookie phenom has three top 10’s on them, all of which were seventh place efforts. With two of the three tracks in this round being on 1.5-mile circuits, his chances of making it to Homestead hamper on his improvement on them.
Will Chevrolet Dominate
Out of the eight drivers left in the championship hunt, five of which are all Chevy powered. Three JR Motorsports drivers (Elliott Sadler, Justin Allgaier, William Byron), one Richard Childress Racing entry (Daniel Hemric) and one Chip Ganassi Racing car (Brennan Poole) are left. They’re likely the top five favorites in this round.
But, can the two Fords (Cole Custer – Stewart/Haas Racing/Ryan Reed – Roush/Fenway Racing) or the lone Toyota (Matt Tifft – Joe Gibbs Racing) compete?
Tifft, has four straight top 10 finishes in his No. 19 Toyota. In fact, he has five in his last seven starts.
Reed though, has just one top 10 finish over his last 11 starts. Then, Custer has four straight top 10’s also and seven in the last eight races.
It appears that Tifft and Custer will contend, while Reed has a lot of work to do. That’s why getting off to a great start at Kansas is key.