Xfinity Heads To SoCal

Chase Briscoe

It may be only be the third race of the season, but the competition in NASCAR’s Xfinity Series is already proving to be top-line as drivers head to Auto Club Speedway for Saturday’s Production Alliance Group 300 (4 p.m. ET on FS1, MRN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio).

The 21-year old Noah Gragson started the season with a dramatic win at Daytona International Speedway and 25-year old Chase Briscoe answered with a late race rally at Las Vegas Motor Speedway last weekend. With the win, the Stewart-Haas Racing driver Briscoe takes the championship lead by a mere seven-points over the JR Motorsport’s driver Gragson.

Essentially the whole field arrives at the two-mile Auto Club Speedway feeling revitalized and motivated. With no former race winner entered this week, someone is sure to have a huge first celebration in this Californian Victory Lane. And with the thrilling, tight competition in just the season’s opening two races, there’s no overwhelming favorite – just the kind of unpredictable, close-quarter racing that has made this series so popular.

Three drivers have earned top-five finishes in the two season-openers – Briscoe, Gragson and Sunoco Rookie of the Year candidate Harrison Burton, who scored a career best runner-up finish at Daytona.

And several drivers reaffirmed their championship intentions with impressive runs at Vegas. Runner-up Austin Cindric was a 2019 Xfinity Series Playoff driver and certainly rallied from a disappointing 16th place showing at Daytona. His second-place work at Vegas in the No. 22 Team Penske Ford moved him up 10 positions in the championship standings and he’s now sixth place; 17 points behind the leader Briscoe – his only fellow Ford driver in the field.

Burton, who drives the No. 20 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota, is certainly establishing a blistering pace for the rookies this season, but his highly-touted JGR teammate Riley Herbst reminded Burton last week that he’s up for the challenge. The first-year Xfinity Series driver’s ninth place in his hometown Las Vegas race moved Herbst from 30th place to 16th in the standings. This will be his Auto Club Speedway debut.

One of NASCAR’s most popular drivers, Ross Chastain, also turned in a Las Vegas points rally. His 10th place finish moved him from 20th place in the standings to 11th.  He will be competing in both races this weekend, filling in for the injured Ryan Newman in Sunday’s NASCAR Cup Series race and continuing his work toward a NASCAR title in the Xfinity Series race on Saturday. In five previous Auto Club Speedway starts, his best Xfinity race finish is 10th in 2018.


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