Saturday’s NASCAR Xfinity Series’ My Bariatric Solutions 300 (2 p.m. ET on NBCSN, PRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio) may well feature a first-time fulltime series victory. That is if the field can beat the race’s all-time winningest driver Kyle Busch, who has a record nine wins in this race – including five consecutively between 2008-2010.
Busch is the only previous winner of the last five Xfinity Series races at the track entered this weekend which opens the door to Victory Lane for any of a dozen of the series championship contenders in what has been an especially competitive season.
Although starting positions are picked based on draw in these unusual 2020 racing circumstances, it is worth noting that only one time in the past 23 races has a winner started worse than sixth on the grid. And that was still a reasonable 10th-place start, when Trevor Bayne won in Fall, 2011.
Last year’s Texas races featured two very different circumstantial outcomes with Busch beating eventual season champion Tyler Reddick in the first race by a mere .861-seconds. Christopher Bell won the second race of 2019 driving away from the field with a 5.561-second advantage over runner-up Ross Chastain.
Statistically speaking, championship leader Chase Briscoe – who has already surpassed his career best single season total with five victories through the opening 15 races – has a best showing at Texas of fourth place in the 2019 Spring race. He was 22nd in the Fall. His current season effort, however, would indicate reason for optimism.
The driver of the No. 98 Stewart-Haas Racing Ford has top-10 finishes in nine of the last 10 races which includes three wins and a runner-up finish. He has been especially good on the 1.5-mile tracks like Texas, earning half (six) of his top-10 finishes on those tracks and winning at Las Vegas and Homestead, Fla.
With the wins, Briscoe is assured a place in the Xfinity Series Playoffs and that will mean a return to Texas during the Playoff run in the Fall. With a position already guaranteed in the championship mix, Briscoe says this week’s Texas stop will include a little homework for the title chase later in the year.
“Obviously this week is still very important,” Briscoe said. “We always want to do well when we show up to the track. We’ve been in position to win every week, so there’s no reason to back off of that. But, big picture, the Playoff races are important so we will try a mix of what we know works at Texas as well as trying stuff for the future.”
Briscoe’s primary championship threats right now are Noah Gragson and Austin Cindric – the series only other multiple race winners – both with two trophies. Gragson trails Briscoe by 19 points in the championship standings and like Briscoe, the No. 9 JR Motorsports driver has experienced vastly different outcomes in his Texas starts – 13th in Texas-1 last Spring and then 30th after crashing out in the fall return.
Gragson, who celebrated his 22nd birthday on Thursday, has 11 top-10 finishes in 15 races this season and his 468 laps led is most in the series. He’s had only one top-five finish (third at Indianapolis) in the last five races. However, that’s certainly not to a lack of effort. Gragson has been a big-time contender in deciding the last two races – leading a combined 124 laps in last week’s Kentucky Speedway doubleheader, even though he didn’t celebrate in Victory Lane.
Austin Cindric, who is third in the championship standings – 33 points behind Briscoe – has a solid Texas resume. He’s finished 11th or better in all four starts including a best of third-place twice – in the Fall, 2018 and Fall, 2019 races. His 441 laps out front this season is second only to Gragson and he is coming off a huge confidence boost sweeping both Kentucky races last weekend, the road course ace’s first series wins on an oval. Cindric (38 laps) and veteran Justin Allgaier (37 laps) lead the current Xfinity Series championship contenders in career laps led at Texas.
Allgaier, driver of the No. 7 JR Motorsports Chevrolet, has nine top-10 finishes at Texas, most among the fulltime Xfinity Series drivers. His best showing is fifth in 2018 and two of his 11 series wins have come on 1.5-milers like Texas. He has four top-10 and two top-five finishes in the seven 1.5-mile races in 2020.
All four of the JR Motorsports drivers entered this week – Gragson, Allgaier, Michael Annett and Jeb Burton have had success at Texas. Annett, driver of the No. 1 JRM Chevrolet is coming off his career best showing at Texas – sixth last summer and he’s completed 99 percent of the laps in his 15 career starts there. He has one top-five and five top-10 finishes in 2020 on 1.5-mile tracks and is averaging an 8.9 finish. Burton, who will steer the No. 8 JRM Chevrolet this week has two top-10 finishes in four Texas starts including a career-best of fifth place in Fort Worth last season.
“Coming off a great weekend in Kentucky, I’m looking forward to keeping the momentum rolling this week at Texas,” Annett said. “We had fast Chevrolets at Kentucky and had a chance to double up on top-fives and that just shows the strength of this No. 1 team. Over the our last four races, we have an average finish of 6.8 and we’re looking to keep that going this weekend at Texas.”
TIL NEXT TIME, I AM STILL WORKING ON MY REDNECK!