Column By: NASCAR – DAYTONA BEACH, FL – With four races to go in the regular season, time is running out for NASCAR Xfinity Series championship contenders. With Playoff implications on the line, expect the competition to be tight and the action to be drama-filled this weekend as the series heads to Road America in Elkhart Lake, Wisconsin for the 10th annual CTECH Manufacturing 180 on Saturday, August 24 (3 p.m. ET on NBCSN, MRN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio).
Road America has seen nine different Xfinity Series winner’s pull into Victory Lane in as many races and this weekend we could see a 10th different winner – which would tie Michigan International Speedway for the longest active different winners streak in the series at 10 each. Only three former Xfinity Series Road America winners are entered this weekend – AJ Allmendinger (2013 winner), Jeremy Clements (2017) and last season’s winner Justin Allgaier. Both Allgaier and Clements are vying for Playoffs spots this season and are still looking for their first win of the year.
But the obvious road course ace to watch this weekend has to be Team Penske’s Austin Cindric, who won the first two of the four road courses the Xfinity Series visits this season (Watkins Glen, Mid-Ohio), and now has the opportunity to become the first driver in series history to win at three different road courses in a single season.
Cindric will have his work cut out for him though, as the Xfinity Series’ “Big 3” – Tyler Reddick, Christopher Bell, and Cole Custer – have taken the 2019 season by storm, winning 14 of the first 22 races of the year – a winning percentage of 63.6%.
Looking ahead this weekend to Road America, Stewart-Haas Racing’s Cole Custer has had the most success among the Big 3 on the four-mile course putting up one top five and two top 10s in two starts; including a best finish of fourth in this race last season. However, Richard Childress Racing’s Tyler Reddick and Joe Gibbs Racing’s Christopher Bell haven’t had the same luck as Custer at Road America. Bell has made two series starts at the venue posting an average finish of 21.0 and Reddick made his series track debut at Road America last season, starting 29th and finishing 34th. A lot has changed since 2018, as Reddick and Bell both finished inside the top-five at Watkins Glen and Mid-Ohio earlier this year.
Plus, history has proven that road courses are notorious for giving drivers their first career series win. In fact, 15 different drivers have become first-time series winners on road courses; including Austin Cindric’s first career win earlier this season at Watkins Glen International. Road America stakes claim to the lion’s share of the Xfinity new winners on road courses producing five of the 15 first-time winners – Jeremy Clements (2017), Michael McDowell (2016), Brendan Gaughan (2014), AJ Allmendinger (2013) and Nelson Piquet Jr. (2012).
PLAYOFF PRESSURE FOLLOWS GANDER TRUCKS TO CANADARe-Order
With the opening race of the 2019 NASCAR Gander Outdoors Truck Series Playoffs behind them, the eight drivers contending for the title head to the lone road course on the series schedule this weekend for the seventh annual Chevrolet Silverado 250 at Canadian Tire Motorsport Park on Sunday, August 25 (2:30 p.m. ET on FS1, MRN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio).
Brett Moffitt is sitting pretty as the Gander Trucks head north of the border – he opened the postseason with a win at Bristol Motor Speedway and has locked in his spot in the second round of the Playoffs. But after that, it’s a big unknown for the Playoff contenders.
The trio of ThorSport Racing teammates in the Playoffs (Grant Enfinger, Matt Crafton and Johnny Sauter), along with the fourth driver in their stable, Ben Rhodes, took a unique approach to preparing for the 2.459-miles of twists and turns in Bowmanville, Ontario. They paired up (Rhodes and Enfinger in one entry, Crafton and Sauter in another) and entered the IMSA Michelin Pilot Challenge race in Ford Mustang GT4s with Multimatic Motorsports in early July.
But no matter who comes out on top this Saturday, it’s guaranteed that a new winner will be pulling into Victory Lane – and it will be the seventh consecutive different winner in the Chevrolet Silverado 250. Current Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series standout Chase Elliott won the inaugural event in 2013, and was followed by Ryan Blaney, Erik Jones, John Hunter Nemechek, Austin Cindric and Justin Haley during the 2014-2018 versions of the race. All of those drivers have also moved on to either the NASCAR Xfinity Series or Monster Energy Series competition.