The biggest debate for the second round of the NASCAR XFINITY Series playoffs which begin this weekend at the Kansas Speedway, is can JR Motorsports put all three of their eligible cars into the final round at the Homestead-Miami Speedway? I feel really good about Elliott Sadler and Justin Allgaier’s chances, but I’m starting to wonder about William Byron’s.
Yes, he has the most playoff points and yes he’s the current points leader by three over Justin Allgaier. Yes, he’s also 19 points ahead of the final cutoff spot. And yes, he’s won three times this season as a rookie, the same amount as the other seven drivers combined. But, with how this round will shake out, I see a glaring issue staring him down – 1.5-mile tracks.
The three tracks in this round of the XFINITY Series playoffs are –
Texas Motor Speedway
Two of the three are on 1.5-mile tracks. How has Byron fared on 1.5-mile tracks this season?
His best finish is seventh and he did so three times. But, his last three finishes on intermediate tracks are 33rd (Chicago), 18th (Kentucky) and 16th (Charlotte) respectively. While he has scored stage points in each of the last three races, in fact he’s scored stage points in every stage in them too, if you go prior to that, he had just nine total stage points over the previous 17 stages (9 races).
On the flipside, the drivers chasing him have not only done better than him on 1.5-mile tracks, they’re also entering the second round with a ton of momentum.
We know Allgaier and Sadler are in prime position to not just win a race, but to advance on from points alone. But, Daniel Hemric, Cole Custer, Brennan Poole and Matt Tifft are coming in with a ton of momentum too.
Tifft, has four straight top 10 finishes. He’s alternated between a sixth and ninth place run the last four events respectively. Poole, has three straight top five finishes and five top 10’s over his last six starts on the season and four top sixes in the last seven overall. His worst finish over those last seven races? 11th. In fact, if you go back to Loudon in July, Poole’s finished in the top 11, 11 times in 13 tries.
As far as Hemric, he’s finished fourth or seventh in five straight races himself and has 12 top 12 finishes over his last 14 races.
Custer, may be as hot as all of them. He too has four straight top 10 finishes to his credit but also has finished worst than 12th just twice since Kentucky in July. One of those finishes was a 14th place run at Richmond.
So, as you can see, all four of those drivers are going to be fits for Byron this round. They too will contend for stage points. Throw in his JRM teammates in the mix too, and you can see why Byron absolutely has to do better than seventh on 1.5-mile tracks this round.