The attention of the motorsports world is in Monaco, Indianapolis and Charlotte this weekend, as three of the biggest racing events of the season will run on Memorial Day weekend. One of the races that loses some attention though is Saturday’s Alsco 300 (1 p.m. ET/FS1/PRN/SiriusXM NASCAR Radio).
Here are five storylines surrounding this race.
Return To Action
The NASCAR XFINITY Series drivers are coming off of two weeks off. How much of that will play a factor in Saturday’s race? This weekend is a rare schedule in that we have two practice sessions on Thursday, but zero on track activity on Friday. Then, they’ll qualify on Saturday morning and race on Saturday afternoon. It seems as if it could be hard to get into a rhythm this weekend, especially after having two weeks off prior too.
11 Races 11 Different Winners?
We’re 10 races into the 2018 season and we’ve yet to see a repeat winner. Will that go 11-for-11 on Saturday? Trends say no. Over the last five XFINITY Series Charlotte races, we’ve had five different winners. Plus, out of the last six May XFINITY Series races on the 1.5-mile track, we’ve had a different winner in each.
Well, I think this is the weekend that this all changes. Elliott Sadler (49 race winless streak) and Matt Tifft (0 career wins) have been pretty good at Charlotte in the past and have decent chances of winning, but I just don’t see if happening. You can throw Chase Elliott, Jamie McMurray and Ty Dillon into this mix, but I don’t know how realistic it will be for either to win.
Kyle Busch is always a threat and my pick to extend that streak to 11 if so.
Christopher Bell, Tyler Reddick and Justin Allgaier are ones I think to watch too. So is Brad Keselowski. I think one of these four win this weekend’s race.
If a 11th different winner should occur this weekend, the 2018 season would solely hold the second-longest different winner streak to start the season in series history. Currently at 10 different winners, the 2018 season is tied with 1987 for the second-longest different winners streak to start a NASCAR Xfinity Series season.
Since the series inception in 1982, the NASCAR Xfinity Series has had 10 different winners in the first 10 races just three times – 1987, 1988 and 2018.
The record for the highest number of different winners to start a NASCAR Xfinity Series season is 13 set back in 1988; followed by 2018 and 1987 with 10 different winners.
The 1988 and 2017 NASCAR Xfinity Series seasons are tied for the series-most different winners for the entire season with 18 each.
Return Of Cup Drivers
After four straight weeks of the Dash 4 Cash the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series drivers are eligible to race in the series again. But, for this weekend, five will race (Kyle Busch, Brad Keselowski, Chase Elliott, Jamie McMurray and Ty Dillon). I do think all five will be in the top 10, which will certainly draw some criticism from the NASCAR world if so too.
With 10 NASCAR Xfinity Series races in the books, the Playoff picture is starting to take shape and, as always, there are some surprises and new faces looking to compete for a title in the postseason.
Current standings leader and veteran JR Motorsports driver Elliott Sadler currently holds the No. 1 seed by a slim margin (three Playoff points) over Sunoco Rookie of the Year contenders Christopher Bell and Tyler Reddick in the second and third seeds, respectively. Sadler is granted the No. 1 seed in the chart below with the expectation he holds on to win the NASCAR Xfinity Series regular season championship, something he personally knows can pay off big time in the hunt for a title.
“What we learned last season as being the regular season champions was that it paid a lot of dividends in the Playoffs because you get 15 Playoff points,” said Sadler. “So we are ahead in the points now and we know all that will be taken away, but if we can continue to lead the points through the summer months and get some bonus points for being the regular season champion, that’s 15 points that’s in our piggy bank for the Playoffs, and for us we found out last year that is going to come in handy.”
The NASCAR Xfinity Series regular season champion is also guaranteed a spot in the Playoffs no matter the number of different winners. Though, so far this season, just three championship contenders have won races – Tyler Reddick (Daytona), Christopher Bell (Richmond) and Justin Allgaier (Dover). Allgaier and the No. 7 JR Motorsports team received a penalty following the Dover race and therefore the win cannot be used for eligibility into the Playoffs, but as of right now, Allgaier can still make the Playoffs on points.
Of the 12 Playoff qualifiers five of the drivers would be first time competitors in the postseason in the Xfinity Series: Christopher Bell, Tyler Reddick, Ryan Truex, Austin Cindric and Ross Chastain.
Playoffs are always top of mind for the NASCAR Xfinity Series competitors. Just 12 points separates JD Motorsport’s Ross Chastain currently in the 12th and final NASCAR Xfinity Series Playoff spot and JR Motorsport’s Michael Annett currently in the 13th position in the championship standings, the first spot outside the postseason cutoff. With just 16 races left in the regular season, each points position is crucial in the effort for a title.
Ross Chastain, from Alva, Florida, is having one of the best starts to a season in his NASCAR Xfinity Series career, having posted three top 10s in the first 10 races of the season. His average finish in 2018 is a career-best 17.7. The cushion Chastain is teetering on isn’t a big one, he is 11-points behind 11th-place Austin Cindric and just 12-points ahead Annett in 13th. Chastain just missed the Playoffs last season and is looking to redeem himself this season.
Michael Annett hasn’t made the same splash in the points his JR Motorsports teammates have (they currently occupy first, second and fourth in the points), but he has been running consistently and accumulating points when he can. Annett made the postseason last year and is looking to do the same in 2018. In 10 starts this season he has finished inside the top-15 four times. His average finish this season is a 16.9, slightly better than Chastain’s (17.7).
Expect the battle to continue when the series gets back to action at Charlotte Motor Speedway on May 26 as both Chastain (20.1) and Annett (20.6) have very similar average finishes at the 1.5-mile facility.