Nigel Kinrade Photography
GALLERY: NASCAR XFINITY Series Playoff Picture Entering Texas
After a calm start to the NASCAR XFINITY Series playoffs, everything has been thrown out the window following a first lap crash at Kansas Speedway that involved four contenders. While the favorites looked comfortable going into the Round of 8, there has to be some nerves with the deficits they are facing.
RUSSELL LABOUNTY | NKP1. Elliott Sadler +14
Elliott Sadler was strong through the regular season, and is getting back to that level of performance with a third-place finish at Kansas Speedway. If he could qualify closer to the front, say top-five rather than 11th, it would make things easier for the master of points in the XFINITY Series.
He has seven straight top-10’s at Texas including a fourth in 2017, and placed ninth at ISM Raceway in the spring.
2. Daniel Hemric +13
Daniel Hemric has started off the playoffs solidly with four straight top-10 performances, including a runner-up at Kansas after pacing 128 laps. As a result, he was set to build himself a sizable gap over the competition that more runs like this will make easy to maintain. Though following the Kansas Lottery 300, the No. 21 Chevrolet was found too low in post-race inspection, resulting in a 10-point penalty. While the gap is still decent, it’ll be interesting if that comes back to bite him.
Notably, he scored a third at Texas in the spring, and has scored a top-seven in each of his three starts with a track-best fifth.
3. Tyler Reddick +11
Consistency paid off for Tyler Reddick as a fifth-place finish for his third playoff top-10 has allowed him to move above the cut-off line following Kansas. With speculation from SportsBusiness Journalist Adam Stern that he could be leaving JR Motorsports at season’s end after a rocky summer, strong performances certainly make for a good job audition.
His performances at the next two tracks, though, have been shaky as he has yet to score a top-20 at Texas and finished 14th and 10th in his previous two races at ISM.
4. Christopher Bell +1
Christopher Bell entered with momentum on his side, courtesy of a pair of victories during the Round of 12 at Richmond Raceway and Dover International Speedway as he is in the midst of an impressive rookie campaign. However, getting caught up in the first lap crash has essentially erased the advantage that he held over his competitors.
If he can avoid wrecks like that, the solid performances should continue as he finished sixth and second in his pair of starts at Texas Motor Speedway, while placing fourth in two previous events at ISM Raceway.
5. Matt Tifft -1
His third top-six finish of the playoffs – sixth at Kansas – has allowed Matt Tifft to close the gap on the competition as he entered this round sitting eight points below the cut-off line. As noted in the initial round preview, Richard Childress Racing has shown the potential for success with Hemric, and now Tifft needs to equal or better his teammate.
He enters Texas with four consecutive top-10 finishes, combined with a seventh at ISM in the spring.
6. Justin Allgaier -5
The regular season champion Justin Allgaier got loose on the opening lap at Kansas, and watched the 18-point advantage he held entering the round disappear just like that. Rather than riding a string of solid finishes to the next round, it will take a little more work from the JR Motorsports driver.
Unfortunately, he has failed to a post a top-10 at Texas in his last three appearances. So if it comes down to ISM, expect Allgaier to run strong following six top-fives in his last seven starts, including a victory in 2017.
7. Cole Custer -23
After a slow start to the Round of 12, Cole Custer had confidence entering Kansas virtue of a runner-up at Dover. However, as one of the drivers caught up in the first lap crash and no power steering for the remainder of the event, he is slowly slipping into a must-win situation.
He could make up the points he lost at Texas where he has a pair of fifths and fourth, and has also finished in the top-10 in his last two races at ISM.
8. Austin Cindric -43
Austin Cindric needed to get the top-10’s rolling to work his way up, but the Kansas crash stopped him right in his tracks. Almsot a full race behind the cut-off line, you might as well say he is in a must-win situation to advance.
Cindric was ninth in his first appearance at Texas in the spring, but his first race at ISM didn’t fare as well, with a 16th-place finish in the spring.
All Photos Courtesy of Nigel Kinrade Photography
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