NASCAR Xfinity Review: Desert Diamond Casino West Valley 200

 Championship weekend continued on Saturday in Phoenix with the NASCAR Xfinity Series.  Chase Briscoe, Austin Cindric, Justin Allgaier, and Justin Haley all went into the race with the shot at a championship.  For Chase Briscoe, it was his final race before moving up to the Cup Series full time in 2021.  The weekend had already started out with an outstanding Truck race the night before.  Could the Xfinity Series top that in the late afternoon?

Justin Allgaier led the field and his three other championship competitors to the green flag.  However, Chase Briscoe was looking to chase down Allgaier quickly.  The outside line proved to be the dominant lane, which was contradictory to the Truck race the night before.  The caution came out early for Jeffery Earnhardt who got spun on the back stretch.  Allgaier led the field back to green, but he didn't have the lead coming out of Turn 2 as Briscoe and Cindric took Allgaier 3 wide and grabbed the top 2 positions.  Chase Briscoe and Austin Cindric continued to battle amongst each other for the lead until the competition caution came out at Lap 20.  Briscoe controlled the race for the remainder of the stage but Cindric and Allgaier were close behind.  Briscoe went on to win Stage 1, but, as per Championship rules, the Championship 4 did not earn stage points during the race.  Cindric, Allgaier, Gragson, Chastain, Annett, Haley, Burton, Herbst, and Jones all finished Top 10 in stage 1.

In Stage 2, it became very apparent that Austin Cindric had the best car of the championship 4 drivers.  Justin Allgaier seemed to be strong early on, but faded quickly on the long run.  Cindric grabbed the lead from Allgaier on lap 83 and went on to win Stage 2.  The stage didn't see much action besides a caution thrown for a smoking Tommy Joe Martins, a car that had started the stage on the front row.  Chase Briscoe didn't seem to have the car that he had in Stage 1.  Allgaier, Briscoe, Jones, Gragson, Annett, Haley, Burton, Clements, and Snider all netted a Top 10 in Stage 2.  Going into the pits, the conversation for the championship competitors was all about how to beat Cindric.  Haley hadn't been much of a factor all day, Briscoe had fallen off from where he was before, and Allgaier couldn't hang with Cindric on the long run.

It all came down to the last 110 laps at Phoenix.  The season was on the line for the championship 4.  Brandon Jones led the field to green, but was quickly overtaken by Justin Allgaier.  Allgaier looked to have a much stronger car in the opening laps of Stage 3.  He pulled out to a solid lead over Austin Cindric for awhile.  However, as time went on, Cindric got closer and got back to the lead.  Quickly falling backwards, Allgaier decided on lap 160 to pit, hoping to short pit the leaders.  Not long after, the rest of the championship contenders found their way down pit road.  Ross Chastain decided to stay out for a few extra laps, a strategy which proved to be a good call as the caution came out for Joe Graf Jr. who got into the wall.  Allgaier took this opportunity to pit again, using his last set of fresh tires.  Allgaier was hoping that fresh tires might be able to catch Cindric, but Cindric still pulled away.  Cindric appeared to be driving away with the win until Chase Briscoe spun in turn 4 with only a few laps to go.  This forced NASCAR overtime.  Allgaier, having no fresh tires, was forced to stay out.  Ross Chastain also stayed out, but the remainder of the lead lap cars all pitted.  Allgaier restarted in the lead, but he was no match for Cindric on fresh tires.  Austin Cindric grabbed the lead and won his 6th race of the year and his first NASCAR Xfinity Series championship.  Gragson, Jones, Annett, Allgaier, Burton, Chastain, Haley, Briscoe, and Clements all finished the season with a Top 10.  The regular season champion held on to win the Xfinity Series title.  A disappointing race for three of the championship contenders, but all of the drivers have their plans for next season lined up.  Chase Briscoe will drive the #14 Cup car for Stewart Haas Racing.  Justin Haley will return to Kaulig Racing.  Justin Allgaier will be back and JR Motorsports.  Austin Cindric will look to defend his title next season.  It was a crazy year for NASCAR, but these drivers proved that even through adversity, they can still put on a show.