Column By: HOLLY CAIN / NASCAR – DAYTONA BEACH, FL – As the NASCAR Xfinity Series heads to Iowa Speedway for this weekend’s Father’s Day version of the CircuitCity.com 250 presented by Tamron (Sunday, June 16 at 5:30 p.m. ET on FS1, MRN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio), there are plenty of storylines and a lot of action atop the series’ championship.
Defending Xfinity Series champion Tyler Reddick has shown no signs of a transitional reset in 2019 – even though he has now moved to a different team, Richard Childress Racing, to challenge for the title. Reddick earned his third victory of the season last week at Michigan and leads the championship standings by a very healthy 89 points over Christopher Bell. Cole Custer is third, 117 points behind Reddick.
Those three drivers – Reddick, Bell and Custer – have won three races each this season. Of the trio – only Bell (August, 2018) has won at Iowa before.
It all makes for very legitimate comparisons to last season’s Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series title run that also had a stellar trio leading the way. Kyle Busch, Kevin Harvick and Martin Truex Jr. – earned the bulk of the race wins (20 of 36 races). Yet a very determined Joey Logano kept them honest in the season finale and won the title.
Reddick’s large points lead is indicative of his work even when he doesn’t visit Victory Lane. The driver of the No. 2 Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet Camaro has 11 top-five and 12 top-10 finishes in 13 races. Interestingly, second year driver Austin Cindric, and rookies Chase Briscoe and Justin Haley are next on that top-10 list with 10 apiece.
Most impressive from Reddick, however, are the 11 top-fives he’s earned in the 13 races. Both Bell and Custer each have seven.
In the last two years, Bell and Custer have played important roles in the Iowa race outcomes. Bell led an impressive 94 laps en route to his win in the last Xfinity race at the track – August, 2018. However, it was Custer who led the most laps (104) despite a fourth place showing. On the flip side, William Byron won at the track in 2017 leading 78 laps and Bell, who was collected in a late race accident, finished 16th after leading a race best 152 laps.
Only two former winners – Bell and defending race winner Justin Allgaier – are entered this week at Iowa, although Xfinity Series rookie John Hunter Nemechek won the 2017 version of Saturday’s Gander Outdoors Truck Series race at the track.
Allgaier along with Elliott Sadler, Kyle Busch, Brad Keselowski and two-time winner Sam Hornish Jr. are the only winners of this traditional Father’s Day stop that are also fathers. Allgaier, of course, would like to win for reasons beyond sentimental feel-good. A five-time race winner in 2018, he’s still looking for his first trophy of this season and hoping to find some pace with the fast-moving trophy trio.
There have been no back-to-back winners in this Iowa race, however, since Ricky Stenhouse Jr. won three straight in 2011-12. Though Allgaier’s 182 laps led in his win last June was the most for a race winner since 2016 when Sam Hornish Jr. led 183 laps.
The former Iowa truck race winner, Nemechek, is now among one of the most talented Xfinity rookie groups – top to bottom – in the history of the series. Four first-year drivers – Chase Briscoe, Nemechek, Noah Gragson and Justin Haley – are currently ranked among the top-12 and on pace to be championship eligible come Playoff time.
Briscoe is sixth in the standings with a seven-point advantage over seventh place Nemechek. Gragson is eighth in the standings, 11 points behind Briscoe and Haley is ranked 10th, 45 points behind Briscoe.
GANDER TRUCKS ARE READY FOR IOWA
The M&M’s 200 presented by Casey’s General Store at Iowa Speedway (Saturday, June 15 at 8:30 p.m. ET on FS1, MRN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio) marks the second opportunity for a driver to earn big bucks with the Triple Truck Challenge.
The winner of each of the three races – at Texas last week, at Iowa this week and at World Wide Technology Raceway at Gateway next week – receives an extra $50,000 bonus. Any driver that can win two of the three will get another $50,000. Additionally, series sponsor Gander Outdoors will award the team $150,000 with half of the money going to the crew.
Greg Biffle won last week, but is not entered this week at Iowa. There are certainly several other drivers primed to step up and earn the big money this week, including defending Iowa race winner and Iowa native, Brett Moffitt. The defending series champion is fourth in the championship standings right now, 55 points behind leader Grant Enfinger, with a pair of runner-up finishes (at Dover, Del. and Las Vegas).
Not only is Moffitt the defending winner at Iowa, his Victory Lane appearance here was one of a series best six wins on the season. He and Matt Crafton are the only former Iowa truck race winners entered this weekend. Moffitt also won a NASCAR K&N West Series race at the track in 2011. Fellow Gander Truck regulars Ben Rhodes (2014), Todd Gilliland 2016 and 2017) and Tyler Ankrum (2018) have also scored K&N West Series wins at Iowa.
Not only is the Triple Truck Challenge big money awaiting the winner, but the top-five drivers in the championship – Enfinger, Stewart Friesen, Matt Crafton, Moffitt and Ben Rhodes – are still vying for their first trophy of the year. Enfinger and the two-time series champ Crafton lead all drivers with eight top-10s through the opening nine races. Crafton leads all drives with nine top-five finishes.