XFINITY SERIES: Five on Five
The Five on Five feature will break down some of the key points in each of the previous five races for the NASCAR XFINITY Series. Here is a peek at Pocono through Kentucky.
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While Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series drivers dominated events six through 10, they weren’t able to take home the trophy in each event from June through July.
Team Penske’s Brad Keselowski finally got their No. 22 entry in victory lane at Pocono Raceway after their primary entry failed to score a win for a year and a half. Denny Hamlin then scored Joe Gibbs Racing’s fourth win of 2017 at Michigan.
The last two events of the stretch were won by XFINITY Series Rookie of the Year Contender William Byron, as he led 78 of 250 laps at Iowa Speedway for his first career triumph, followed by winning at Daytona. Joe Gibbs Racing then returned to victory lane with Kyle Busch at Kentucky Speedway.
Although Cup drivers continue racking up wins, the trend of series regulars scoring victories should continue as there are some more upcoming stand-alone events, including another trip to Iowa Speedway and a pair of road courses.
JRM Remains at the Top
16 events completed this season, and the top of the standings hasn’t shifted much as JR Motorsports continues to take up the top three positions, as they have since the third race of 2017.
Elliott Sadler has led since the season-opener at Daytona International Speedway, but now has a new teammate behind him with William Byron second, 45 points behind. Justin Allgaier has now fallen to third, 58 markers back of Sadler.
Their strength shows in the number, with Byron posting the best average finish through June at 4.6 following three podium finishes, while Sadler posted the second highest at 5.8 with just one finish outside the top-eight. Allgaier was the best of the bunch in the last segment but had the fifth-best average this time around at 13 after being involved in a wreck at Daytona.
JR Motorsports’ fourth entry has yet to make much headway with Michael Annett currently sitting 10th in points. While he posted a sixth-place finish at Iowa Speedway, he has also finished outside of the top-30 in two of the last four events.
Chase Bubble Watch
As the series nears closer to the 26th race of the season at Chicagoland Speedway – the last event before the XFINITY Series Chase, eyes will be watching the 12th position in points a lot closer to see who will qualify.
Currently, victories for Byron, Allgaier and Ryan Reed have them locked in. Based on the gap between them and 13th, you could also add Sadler, Daniel Hemric, Brennan Poole, Cole Custer and Matt Tifft to the winners above.
Darrell Wallace Jr. is sitting 11th in points with a 43 point cushion over Brendan Gaughan in 13th, but no ride will see him fall through the standings dramatically. As a result, Gaughan is currently theoretically the last driver in position to qualify with eight races to go.
Dakoda Armstrong appears to be pretty safe with a gap of 66 points over Ryan Sieg, following a pair of top-fives over this most recent stretch. Annett’s struggles as mentioned above currently have him 62 markers ahead of Sieg.
Blake Koch was bound to put himself in a position to lock in, but only one top-10 in the last five races have dropped him to 12th in the standings, just 28 markers ahead of Sieg. Gaughan is currently the last driver set to qualify, but only by six points ahead of Sieg. Continuing to post top-10’s will help him, as he has posted a pair in the last five events.
Competing with one of the smaller teams in the series, Sieg caught everyone’s attention with a runner-up at Iowa Speedway. A couple more strong performances like that, and he could close the gap to get into the top 12.
J.J. Yeley currently sits 15th in the standings, 17 markers behind Gaughan. His team has struggled so far this year with no top-10’s posted.
While JR Motorsports has continually stolen the highlights, Armstrong is putting his name out there.
Over this most recent stretch, Armstrong has run up front, posting a pair of top-five finishes. The fifth-place finish at Iowa Speedway did not come without adversity, as he had to start at the back due to suffering a flat tire in qualifying.
This season marks his fourth season of racing in NASCAR’s second-tier division and could become a career-best if the success continues. Previously, his highest points finish was 12th in 2015, and this year marks the first time he has scored more than one top-five.
Needs a Good Run
After starting off the season strong, Daniel Hemric has not had the best of luck the past couple of weeks.
The Richard Childress Racing driver started the season with two top-fives, and four top-10’s in the first 10 races. However, in the past five, he was only able to score a two top-10’s.
Hemric has run up front each week, but incidents on-track have resulted in the box score not matching the performance. With the races counting down to the Chase, it will be critical for Hemric to shake off the bad luck so he can mount a championship charge.
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