NXS Playoffs Hit High Gear At Texas

After a dramatic regular season finale to set the 12-driver NASCAR Xfinity Series Playoff field last week, the seven-race Playoff portion of the schedule starts with Saturday afternoon’s Andy’s Frozen Custard 300 at Texas Motor Speedway (3:30 p.m. ET on USA Network, PRN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio).

Veteran A.J. Allmendinger became the first driver to win back-to-back Regular Season Championships. But Noah Gragson takes the No. 1 seed and “favorite” tag into Saturday’s Playoff-opening race. The 24-year-old Las Vegas native has won the last three races coming to Texas and boasts a six-win tally on the year – already doubling his previous season high mark for victories with seven races to go.

A fourth straight win this week at Texas Motor Speedway – a venue he has never won at before – would tie a 40-year-old series record. Sam Ard (1983) is the only driver in series history to win four consecutive races.

Gragson has earned a series best 15 top fives in the No. 9 JR Motorsports Chevrolet and a series-high 13 stage wins. In just the last eight races, Gragson has four wins, six top-five and seven top-10 finishes. And he carries a 13-point edge over Joe Gibbs Racing’s Ty Gibbs as the first three-race elimination round of the championship begins.

“It’s been a wild month for this No. 9 Bass Pro Shops team, winning the last three races,” Gragson said. “(Crew chief) Luke (Lambert) and our team are really hitting a stride and there’s no better time to do that than in the Playoffs. We’ve got a big head of steam and we’re going to keep that hot streak going this weekend at Texas.

“Can’t wait to get the Playoffs started on the right foot this weekend.”

Gragson’s closest competitor all season, Gibbs, the driver of the No. 54 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota, has five wins. But after winning three times in a five-race stretch in the opening months of the season, he has only a single win since July 2 – at Michigan, six races ago. Gibbs has 10 top-fives and 16 top-10 finishes but has a pair of finishes 27th or worse in the five races since Michigan – including the worst finish of his young career (36th place) last week at Bristol, Tenn.

A couple veterans are poised to keep the young Gragson and Gibbs honest in the Playoffs. JR Motorsports’ Justin Allgaier, 36, is ranked third, only 18 points behind his teammate Gragson. And the driver of the No. 7 JR Motorsports Chevrolet has led a series-best 726 laps this year. His 12 top-five finishes are second only to Gragson. His best finish at Texas is runner-up in Spring, 2021.

Kaulig Racing’s Allmendinger, 40, has three victories and a series-best 23 top-10 finishes in the No. 16 Chevrolet. That means he’s finished outside the top-10 in only three races this entire season and he trails Gragson by only 19 points. 

The remainder of the Playoff grid is composed of Josh Berry, Austin Hill, Brandon Jones, Jeremy Clements, Sam Mayer, defending series champion Daniel Hemric, Riley Herbst and Ryan Sieg.

Berry and Mayer are teammates with Gragson and Allgaier marking the first time in JR Motorsports team history that it has four Playoff cars qualify for the Playoffs.

No current fulltime Xfinity Series driver has won a Xfinity race at on the 1.5-mile Texas high banks.

NASCAR Cup Series driver Tyler Reddick won the Xfinity Series race at Texas this Spring by a full 1.8-seconds over fellow Cup Series driver William Byron. Current Playoff drivers Mayer, Allgaier and Hill rounded out the top five. Gibbs finished 12th. Gragson won Stage 1 but was involved in a six-car crash on Lap 89.

John Hunter Nemechek is the defending winner of this Playoff race, leading a race best 71 laps and taking the victory in 2021 by 1.316-seconds over eventual series champ Hemric. Gragson, Allgaier and Austin Cindric rounded out the top five. Nemechek will be competing this weekend driving the No. 18 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota.

Of note, Richard Childress Racing’s Sheldon Creed won the 2020 NASCAR Camping World Truck Series race at the track. And Jeb Burton also has a Truck Series win (2013) at Texas as well.

Practice for the race is slated for 10:35 a.m. ET on Saturday followed by qualifying at 11:05 a.m. – both on USA Network and streamed on the NBC Sports App.

TIL NEXT TIME, I AM STILL WORKING ON MY REDNECK!

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