Saturday’s Bar Harbor 200 (3 p.m. ET/NBCSN/MRN/SiriusXM NASCAR Radio) should be one of the better NASCAR XFINITY Series races that we’ve seen this year. This is the third and final race of the first round of the playoffs, as eight drivers will advance to the Round of 8 once the checkered flag drops at the Dover International Speedway on Saturday.
But, what makes this race so interesting is that we have seven wildcard spots still open.
Christopher Bell is the only playoff eligible driver to have won in this year’s playoffs. He did so in the opening race of the round at Richmond. Currently, we have six drivers separated by just 14 points in the standings. One of those six definitely won’t make it to the next round.
That means stage points will be crucial in Saturday’s race which means we should have battling for position for all 200 laps of the race. Stage points will be the reason as to why someone makes it on and someone doesn’t.
So, who are the ones that will advance?
Bell is obvious, but I think Daniel Hemric is too. He is +30 in the standings and has a 6.7 average finishing position at Dover in his three starts there. He was fourth in this race last year and third in the spring. In two Truck Series starts, he was fourth and ninth respectively as well. He was also in the top seven in both practice sessions around the concrete one-mile track on Friday too, meaning that his No. 21 Chevrolet should run up front all day and score enough stage points to easily stake by.
Tyler Reddick should too. Reddick, won a Truck Series race at Dover and had three top eight finishes in as many tries. He finished fifth in the XFINITY Series race back in May. On the season, he has four top 10 finishes in his last five starts including two of which being in the top three. He was second and sixth respectively in practice on Friday. He advances on.
Cole Custer is next. He was in the top three in both practices and had two top eight finishes in three tries in XFINITY Series competition at Dover. He has two top five in three Truck Series tries too. Furthermore, Custer has 10 top 10 finishes in his last 12 starts on the season and 14 of the last 17 overall.
After that, Matt Tifft gets by with four top 10 finishes in as many tries at Dover. He has a 7.75 average finishing position. On the year, Tifft brings with him seven top 10 finishes in his last eight starts including three top six finishes in the last four weeks. He moves on too.
The sixth and seventh spots will belong to Elliott Sadler and Justin Allgaier. Sadler, has six straight top 10 finishes at Dover and nine in his last 10 starts there overall. On the year, he had six top six finishes over the last eight races and was sixth and eighth respectively in practice.
Allgaier, well he can win the race outright. He was fastest in both practice sessions on Friday and won the spring race too. In his last five Dover starts, Allgaier has four top four finishes. He’s the favorite.
That leaves one spot for five drivers. Ryan Truex (-24), Ryan Reed (-25) and Brandon Jones (-28) all likely have to win. Truex, didn’t like it his car in practice as he was 15th and 14th respectively on the timing sheets for single lap runs. He does have two top 10 finishes in as many tries at Dover in the Truck Series and a 10.6 average finishing position in five XFINITY Series starts, including a runner-up, I just don’t think his car is capable of winning. He hasn’t scored a top five over the last nine races on the season.
Same with Reed. He finished 16th in this race last year and 19th in the spring. He’s also finished 10th and 11th respectively in the two playoff races. In practice, he was only 16th in each of the two sessions.
Jones, well he’s struggled at Dover with a 24th place average finishing spot. He did earn the pole in the spring race but only finished 10th. He came home 39th in this race last year and 29th in the 2017 spring race. What’s going for him is that he was in the top 10 in both practice sessions on Friday and has four top 10 finishes in his last six starts on the season. Can he really win his first career race though?
That leaves an Austin Cindric vs. Ross Chastain battle. There’s a nine point differential between them. Again, stage points.
Chastain’s best Dover finish is 12th in the fall race in 2016. He came home 16th this past Spring. Does he have enough in his car to get stage points?
His car was ninth and fifth respectively in practice and finished ninth in the spring. He was fifth in last year’s Truck Series race at Dover. He has two top 10 finishes in his last three starts on the season too.
I think he gains valuable stage points and beats Chastain across the finish line for the eighth and final transfer spot.