After a week off last weekend, the NASCAR XFINITY Series drivers get back to action this weekend at the Texas Motor Speedway. The race is the second event of the second round, as the series will race every week now from here on out.
But, what are the five storylines for this weekend’s O’Reilly Auto Parts 300 (8:30 p.m. ET/NBCSN/PRN)?
Here are mine.
Playoffs Likely Coming Down to JR Motorsports and 1 More
Saturday night’s race is the penultimate race of the second round and that means that the championship battle is heating up. In the last race at Kansas, the JR Motorsports teammates proved that even with some potential mistakes, they are the ones to beat. Right now, the top three in the standings are the three JRM drivers.
Justin Allgaier thought he had an engine going down and he still finished in the top 10. William Byron started last and got into the wall twice. He also finished with a top 10 effort. Even Elliott Sadler spun and too was in the top 10 when the checkered flag flew. They lead the cutoff spot by 33, 31 and 22 points respectively.
That basically means that final spot in the championship round is between five drivers. Brennan Poole leads Matt Tifft by five points for that coveted position. Tifft, is on a roll right now while Poole, Daniel Hemric (-6) and Cole Custer (-8) saw their top 10 finishing streaks end.
Ryan Reed stole a top 10 away at Kansas and is just six points out himself. These guys all need stage points and a top 10 finish on Saturday. Not all of them will do that. Whoever does, they get a leg up on everyone else.
Will a Playoff Driver Finally Win?
We’re four races into the playoffs and so far, none of the playoff drivers have won a race yet. Tyler Reddick, Ryan Blaney, Alex Bowman and Christopher Bell all have won in the postseason. Will one of the drivers mentioned in the point above win, or will someone like Blaney, Bell, Erik Jones, Kyle Larson or the Dillon brothers prevail?
Another New Winner?
Over the last 10 XFINITY Series races, we’ve seen 10 different winners. Will an 11th one occur on Saturday? Erik Jones, Kyle Larson and both Dillon brothers will be favorites. They aren’t part of the previous 10 race winners. Neither is Elliott Sadler or William Byron. So, would you take Ryan Blaney or Christopher Bell to repeat or someone new?
With so much talent in this weekend’s field, the playoff drivers getting stage points are going to be tough to come by. Blaney, Larson, Bell, Jones and both Dillon brothers are entered. That’s going to make it tough to get stage points for a top five finish in each. So, with eight playoff drivers still eligible, not all of them will get stage points. Whoever does though, can really separate themselves.
The track got a repave in the offseason which made the racing in April ho-hum. The track had too much grip which meant it was a one groove race. Drivers said if you got outside of that groove, you were going to wreck. So, they all just followed behind the car in front. With this weekend’s race being under the lights, there will be even more grip, meaning passing will be difficult on Saturday night.