Xfinity Series Playoff Preview - Zach Bell and Justin Seger

    


 

    The Xfinity Series playoffs are finally here. Arguably the most competitive NASCAR national series. Seven different drivers won a race in the regular season, and all seven have at least two wins. The Xfinity Series Round of 12 includes Las Vegas, Talladega, and the Charlotte Roval. The Round of 8 includes Kansas, Texas, and Martinsville. The Championship Round is a single round event at Phoenix. 


  
  Chase Briscoe - 7 Wins (Las Vegas, Darlington, Homestead, Pocono, Indy Road Course, Dover, Bristol), 14 Top 5s, 18 Top 10s, Average Finish 7.6, + 48 Points.

Zach :  The most dominant driver in the Xfinity Series enters the playoffs as one of the two favorites. He struggled by his standards this summer, but a rebound at Bristol has brought momentum back to the team. His points cushion, and performance this season makes him a virtual lock for Phoenix.

Justin : Briscoe comes into the playoffs as a championship favorite. No practice or qualifying has seemed to help the SHR crew, just as it has his Cup teammate, Kevin Harvick.  Briscoe fell off during the summer months but was able to prove he was still a contender with a win at Bristol.  I’d be surprised if we didn’t see the #98 fighting for a championship in Phoenix.

    Austin Cindric - 5 Wins ( Kentucky, Kentucky, Texas, Road America, Daytona Road Course) 17 Top 5s, 21 Top 10s, Average Finish 7.5, Regular Season Champion, +48 Points.

Zach : The most consistent driver in the series is rewarded with the regular season championship. A blazing hot summer earned Cindric 5 wins since July, and was dominant on almost every road course on the schedule. I expect Cindric's cushion to get him to Phoenix, but I worry about his chances to win it all. 

Justin : Cindric, like Briscoe, comes in as a championship favorite.  Cindric has the best average finish of the playoff drivers, and consistency is key.  A slow start to the season was met with dominance in the summer months and a regular season championship.  I would expect to see the #22 battling in Phoenix if he can avoid something like what happened to his Penske teammate, Ryan Blaney.

    Justin Allgaier - 3 Wins ( Dover, Richmond, Richmond), 8 Top 5s, 15 Top 10s, Average Finish 13.2, +31 Points.

Zach : The hottest driver in the series Allgaier has been turning his early season woes around. Allgaier's season has been one with several letdowns, and being so so close to winning. Allgaier has all the momentum in the garage, but I worry the luck could turn on him. If Allgaier gets to Phoenix he almost has to be the favorite.

Justin : Allgaier comes in with a lot going good for him.  He’s had the most momentum of anyone as of late.  He has got 3 wins now and a handful of playoff points.  He’s also got maturity and when the pressure of the playoffs gets heavy, maturity and experience might find Allgaier in the championship hunt.

    Noah Gragson - 2 Wins (Daytona, Bristol) 11 Top 5s, 19 Top 10s, Average Finish 9.2, +23 Points.

Zach : Arguably the most interesting driver in the Xfinity Series Noah Gragson has been the streakiest driver in this season. A blazing start with wins at Daytona, and Bristol earned Gragson a comfortable spot entering the playoffs. Gragson has been quiet as of late, but I absolutely believe Gragson could win his way to Phoenix.

Justin : Gragson has been a peculiar case.  He started off very strong scoring 2 wins but hasn’t seen victory lane since.  He has stayed consistent though with an average finish inside the top 10.  I do not see Gragson fighting for a championship in Phoenix, but he could certainly put on a strong showing.

    Brandon Jones - 3 Wins (Phoenix, Kansas, Darlington) 8 Top 5s, 14 Top 10s, Average Finish 13.5, +18 Points.

Zach : The luckiest driver in the Xfinity Series enters the playoffs with some luck on his side. Although luck is the reward for being in position to capitalize, and he could easily find his place at Phoenix. He now has two wins at Kansas a Round of 8 track, and a win in Phoenix against Kyle Busch. I doubt his luck will last that long, but if he makes it Jones can easily capitalize. 

Justin : Sometimes all you need is a little luck.  That’s exactly what Jones has had this year.  Jones has been able to capitalize on other driver’s mishaps and has accumulated 3 wins on the year.  He very well could sneak into the final four.  If he does, one of his 3 wins this season did come at Phoenix.

    Justin Haley - 2 Wins (Talladega, Daytona) 8 Top 5s, 16 Top 10s, Average Finish 10.1, +16 Points.

Zach : A driver that's trending upwards Justin Haley has been trending towards a threat. Haley in combination with Kaulig Racing is arguably the best superspeedway racer in the series. Getting to Phoenix will be a challenge, but if Haley can get there he could spoil the championship party.

Justin : I have been impressed with Justin Haley lately.  Like Jones, he’s been able to capitalize on chaos by other drivers.  We typically see Haley as a superspeedway racer as that’s where he’s accumulated his wins.  However, Haley put up a strong showing at Richmond which could be an indicator for Phoenix.  He will have an uphill battle getting to Phoenix though.  Luckily, for him Talladega is a part of this round.

    Harrison Burton - 2 Wins (Auto Club, Homestead) 13 Top 5s, 18 Top 10s, Average Finish 9.5, +12 Points.

Zach : Harrison Burton has impressed me throughout the season. Harrison, much like his father Jeff Burton, has been calm and consistent all season. His calming nature has made him under the radar, but I truly believe Harrison is a legitimate championship threat, and could even reach Phoenix without a win. 

Justin :  I had high hopes for Harrison this year, especially after his two wins early in the year.  He is still young, though, and he is a rookie in the series.  He’s put up some good numbers though for a rookie campaign.  However, I don’t see it being enough to get him to the championship fight in Phoenix.

    Ross Chastain - 13 Top 5s, 23 Top 10s, Average Finish 7.9, +8 Points. 

Zach : Although his consistency has been impressive Chastain's lack of wins makes his playoff journey seemingly perfect just to reach Phoenix. I think Chastain earns his elusive first win of the season, but his lack of wins will be the one thing keeping from Phoenix.  

Justin : Ross Chastain has been as consistent this year as Briscoe and Cindric.  However, there’s one thing that finds him so far down on this list: lack of winning.  Chastain was only able to muster up 2 stage wins.  Being third in points does add 8 more playoff points.  I would love to see the melon man in Phoenix, but it will be an uphill battle with little playoff points to help him out.

  Ryan Sieg - 4 Top 5s, 8 Top 10s, Average Finish 15.7, -8 Points.

Zach : The best of an Xfinity Series littered with fun underdogs Sieg has been using strategy all season. Sieg's best chance to advance is Talladega, and I hope he can, but even that is a tall task. However making the playoffs again is another solid season for Seig, and his team. 

Justin : Every year Sieg and his team get a little bit better.  The hard-working owner, driver has looked impressive, running top 10 at some point in quite a few races.  However, the equipment inside the #39 just isn’t at the level of his playoff competitors.  This team can use the publicity to look for more financial opportunities and perhaps we could see them in the championship hunt soon.    

Michael Annett- 3 Top 5s, 16 Top 10s, Average Finish 11.9, -8 Points.

Zach : Annett's 2020 season has been a disappointment overall. Annett has struggled to be much more than a bottom of the top 10 threat. Considering he's already in a points hole I think he will be solid, but unable to elevate his performance to advance. 

Justin : Annett has had a slower year than last year, but solid year.  His 11.9 average finish is higher than that of his JR Motorsports teammate, Justin Allgaier.  However, like Chastain, Annett just hasn’t been able to get out front and get the wins and playoff points needed to advance. 

    Riley Herbst - 4 Top 5s, 16 Top 10s, Average Finish 15.0, -9 Points.

Zach : Riley Herbst has been a bit of a disappointment for me this season. I understand he's a rookie with very very limited success, but this is JGR equipment. I think Riley's youth and inexperience will show, but this playoff experience will serve him well in the future as he continues in the Xfinity Series.

Justin : Herbst has had a hit or miss season in terms of performance.  He’s shown signs of speed and potential, but he doesn’t have the record to show for it.  Herbst is the least experienced in the field having the least amount of Xfinity starts in the field.  I think the lack of experience and playoff points will see Herbst as an early exit in the playoffs.

    Brandon Brown - 4 Top 10s, Average Finish 16.5, -10 Points.

Zach : Brandon Brown has been fun to watch. A consistently improving top 15 threat this team has made a massive improvement. Even with a financial push to make himself a bigger playoff contender I expect Brown to fall short considering the point in which he's starting. Brown like Seig needs to use this experience to make his team's future brighter. 

Justin : Brown, like Sieg, is an owner, driver for the NASCAR Xfinity Series.  They were able to make it into the playoffs with consistent top 15 runs.  Brown stated that they were acquiring some better equipment to make a run for the playoffs.  However, the lack of playoff points will be extremely hard for Brown to overcome, and he’s in the biggest hole starting the playoffs.

Zach's Picks - I'm excited to see how the Xfinity Series playoffs look. I see six legitimate title contenders, but my Championship 4 is Chase Briscoe, Austin Cindric, Justin Allgaier, and Harrison Burton. I expect Briscoe, Cindric, and Allgaier to be relatively smooth sailing and cruise to Phoenix. Harrison Burton is my sleeper, and I think in a field that has plenty of aggressive drivers with Chastain and Gragson, Burton can sneak to Phoenix. My champion however is Chase Briscoe, and to me the best driver gets the championship.

Justin's Picks -  After everything that’s been said, I believe that the four drivers heading to Phoenix will be: Chase Briscoe, Austin Cindric, Justin Allgaier, and Brandon Jones.  The drivers that have the most wins will find a way to get up front again and punch their ticket to Phoenix.  I believe that Allgaier will be able to win in Phoenix as well and clinch his first ever NASCAR Xfinity Series Championship.