Friday, February 9, 2018

2018 Spade Racing Nascar Xfinity Series Preview: Who Makes the Playoffs, and Where’s the Drama?


The Nascar Xfinity Series has been in an odd spot for some time now—while it can provide exciting on-track action, fans often grouse about the dominance of Cup drivers dipping down a level to boost their egos against inferior competition.  So why should you, the fan, care about the Xfinity Series?  Well, just take a look at who will be in this year’s playoffs—and look at the drama:

THE CHAMPION
20 Christopher Bell (JGR)—He’ll catch on quickly, win a few races, then use his superior JGR equipment and pit crew to fight through the playoffs, before tallying a win in the finale.  DRAMA: Will JGR jump the gun and move him up to Cup for 2019?  Daniel Suarez, your seat is getting warm.


THE ALMOST-CHAMPIONS
00 Cole Custer (SHR-Biagi)—Ol’ Double-C finally “gets it” and joins C-Bell as the only other multiple-race winner amongst Xfinity regulars.  DRAMA: Will SHR let Kurt Busch walk in order to start Custer’s First Stand in Cup?

1 Elliott Sadler (JRM)—The wily veteran leads regulars with the most top-fives and top-tens and he points’ himself through to the final round, where a poor race dooms his championship chances yet again.  DRAMA: Will he EVER win a championship?

19 Brandon Jones (JGR)—Running JGR equipment does wonders for Jones’ advancing career, and he finishes the season as the odds-on favorite for the 2019 title…if Christopher Bell moves on.  DRAMA: What did Rowdy say to him after Jones moved him out of the way for the win?


THE CONTENDERS:
7 Justin “Thunder” Allgaier (JRM)—Its a better year than the past few for The Little Gator, but he’ll still need pit strategy to get to victory lane.  DRAMA: Is it time to go back to dirt racing full-time?

21 Daniel Hemric (RCR)—Hemric continues his growth with RCR despite being shut out of victory lane.  DRAMA: Can Hemric make “the leap” in RCR equipment?

16 Ryan Reed (RFR)—Reed continues his mastery of plate-racing “strategy”, but is more impressive in finally keeping his DNF’s down…until the playoffs heat up.  DRAMA: Does Reed make the move to Cup with Front Row Racing?

2 Matt Tifft (RCR)—Its a tough year adjusting to RCR Chevy’s, although he shows some promise in non-companion races.  DRAMA: Is 2019 “the year” for Tifft and RCR?


THE LONGSHOTS:
11 Ryan Truex (Kaulig)—This single-car team gets a feel-good win at one of the Iowa races, but otherwise limps into the playoffs and is eliminated.  DRAMA: Is RCR equipment holding Kaulig Racing back?

9 Tyler Reddick (JRM)—The year is as varied as the multiple paint schemes on this JR Motorsports car, but brighter days are on the horizon.  DRAMA: Did he REALLY race Allgaier too hard in the playoffs?

24 Kaz Grala (JGL)—Kaz posts three strong finishes on the road courses and is steady enough on other tracks to make the playoffs on points.  DRAMA: Who will offer Kaz a better ride?

5 Michael Annett (JRM)—Annett barely makes it into the playoffs, and is quickly eliminated.  DRAMA: Is it finally time for JRM to move on with another driver?


JUSSSSST MISSED IT
23 Spencer Gallagher (GMS)—Gallagher overcomes a slow start with some solid runs, but is edged out by Annett by a few points.  DRAMA: Does GMS move up to Cup next year?

39 Ryan Sieg (RSS)—Nascar’s Official Underdog posts another solid year, albeit one that again sees him on the outside of contention.  DRAMA: How long can one guy keep his independent team together?

4 Ross Chastain (JDM)—The Watermelon Man has another year in which a tenth-place finish counts as a victory.  DRAMA: Is it time for Ross to move back to the Truck Series?

51 Jeremy Clements (JCR)—Last year’s feel-good story can’t conjure any magic, although he makes it through another year which is a victory in itself.  DRAMA: If offered a ride with a mid-level team, would Jeremy take it?

01 Vinnie Miller (JDM)—Its a long year of adapting to the Xfinity Series for JD Motorsports’ new driver.  DRAMA: Will JDM make it through the full season with all four cars?


THE INTERLOPERS
18 Rowdy, Preece, and the boys (JGR)—Joe Gibbs and Kyle Busch continue their assault on the Xfinity Series record books, but Ryan Preece manages to find victory lane again.  DRAMA: Is it time Ryan Preece got a full-time ride for JGR?

22 Penske All-Star Car—Both BKes and JoLo find victory lane as this car goes through more paint schemes than, well, something that would go through a lot of paint schemes.  DRAMA: Why do people blame Rowdy, but not the Penske guys?

3 RCR All-Star Car—Austin Dillon finds victory lane and Ty manages to contend.  DRAMA: Where’s Brendan Gaughan?

42 John Kyle Larsonchek (Ganassi)—Kyle Larson gets a win or two, while John Hunter Nemechek looks strong in every race he’s entered in.  DRAMA: Will JHN finally get a full-time Xfinity ride next year?

60 Roush Driver Development Team—Ty Majeski, Austin Cindric, and Chase Briscoe find its hard to compete when you’re constantly being taken out of the car.  DRAMA: Will Austin Cindric return to Penske next year for a full-time Xfinity ride?


98 SHR All-Star Car (SHR-Biagi)—Kevin Harvick shows speed in the few races he runs, as per usual.  DRAMA: Will this entire team shut down once Cole Custer moves to Cup?