Three different winners – including two first-time winners – in the opening three races has certainly set an exciting pace for the 2021 NASCAR Xfinity Series season. And with only one former Las Vegas winner in this week’s field, Saturday afternoon’s Alsco Uniforms 300 (4:30 p.m. ET on FS1, PRN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio) is shaping up to be another thrilling chapter in a compelling early season of competition.
Myatt Snider became the second first-time race winner this season and will come to the second 1.5-mile challenge of the year at Las Vegas feeling very confident. Snider will start on the pole position – alongside Xfinity driver standings leader Austin Cindric for Saturday’s race and judging by recent history, there are no clear-cut favorites but a lot of legitimate contenders.
It’s an interesting championship picture already with defending series champ, Cindric, leading the way in the standings with three top-five finishes in three races, including the season-opening victory at Daytona. He was runner-up to Chase Briscoe last February at Las Vegas and finished sixth in September, leading 49 laps in those two races.
Daniel Hemric (Joe Gibbs Racing) and Jeb Burton (Kaulig Racing) – both in new rides for the 2021 season are ranked third and fourth in the Xfinity driver standings coming to Las Vegas. Hemric, 30, has three top 10s and two top-fives already and is still looking for his first victory in one of NASCAR’s three top divisions. Burton, 28, has three top-five finishes this year – already establishing himself a viable championship contender in his first fulltime opportunity in the series.
There are a couple of other title contenders on the other side of fortune early in the season.
Noah Gragson, driver of the No. 9 JR Motorsports Chevrolet, is widely-regarded a title favorite, but he’s had a lot of misfortune in the early-going and is still looking for this first top-20 finish of the year as he comes to his hometown Las Vegas track. Gragson has crashed out of two of the three races this season – including as the race leader last week at Homestead. His best – and only – race finish is 28th on the Daytona Road Course.
Las Vegas has been a fantastic venue for the 22-year-old Gragson. However, his 3.8 average finish is second-best among all the tracks. He was fourth and second in the two races here last year.
Justin Allgaier, Gragson’s veteran teammate at Junior Motorsports, is also looking to turn things around in 2021. The 34-year old perennial championship contender is also still looking for his first top 20 of the year – a highly uncharacteristic start that includes a pair of DNFs (at the Daytona season-opener and at Homestead). His best finish is 26th at the Daytona Road Course.
As with his teammate Gragson, Allgaier has turned in promising runs at Las Vegas even if he hasn’t hoisted a trophy there yet. He has 11 top-10 finishes in 13 starts, including two runner-up efforts. He has finished eighth or better in the last three races at Las Vegas, including eighth and fourth last year.
TIL NEXT TIME, I AM STILL WORKING ON MY REDNECK!