Story By: NASCAR – HOMESTEAD, FL – Here is an in-depth look at the four drivers who have qualified for the NASCAR Xfinity Series Championship 4 and will race for the title at Homestead-Miami Speedway in the Ford EcoBoost 300 on Saturday, Nov. 16 (at 3:30 p.m. ET on NBCSN, MRN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio).
Justin Allgaier (No. 7 JR Motorsports Chevrolet Camaro)
Following a winless drought all season, JR Motorsport’s driver Justin Allgaier pulled out a big win last Saturday at ISM Raceway to advance to the Championship 4 and have a shot this weekend at the NASCAR Xfinity Series title at Homestead-Miami Speedway. Allgaier’s season has been a struggle in comparison to past seasons, as the Illinois native hadn’t won until last weekend at Phoenix. Now for the third time in four years the veteran Allgaier has a shot at the Xfinity championship in Miami – he finished third is his previous two Championship 4 appearances (2016, 2017).
Allgaier has made 32 series starts in 2019 gathering one win (ISM Raceway-2), 16 top fives, and 24 top 10s. He has also led 607 laps this season and has managed an average start of 7.1 and an average finish of 8.9. In addition, Allgaier has posted solid season-to-date loop data stats, including a driver rating of 109.6 (fourth-best), an average running position of 6.769 (second-best), a total of 391 fastest laps run (fourth-most), and completed 92.9% of his laps (5,206) in the top 15 (series-best).
Playoff Recap: Allgaier has been one of the most consistent of the Playoff drivers this season. The 33-year old posted a fourth-place finish at Richmond Raceway, a fourth-place finish at the Charlotte Roval and then a runner-up finish at Dover International Speedway to close out the Round of 12. Allgaier didn’t slow down there, in the Round of 8 he finished fifth at Kansas, sixth at Texas and then grabbed the checkered flag at ISM Raceway last weekend to guarantee his spot in the Championship 4.
Homestead-Miami Outlook: Expect Allgaier to run well this weekend for the title, as he has the most NASCAR Xfinity Series starts (nine) at Homestead-Miami Speedway among the Championship 4. The JRM standout has made nine series starts in Miami, posting two top 10s and an average finish of 14.1. In his first Championship 4 appearance in 2016, he started sixth and finished sixth. Then in his second appearance in the Championship 4 in 2017, he started 16th and finished 12th. He finished seventh in last season’s series finale.
Crew Chief Corner: Jason Burdett, crew chief for the JR Motorsport’s No. 7 Chevrolet team, began his racing career with several local teams around the Watkins Glen area. In 1998, he transitioned to North Carolina and joined Robert Yates Racing. A year later, he helped Jarrett’s team to the title as a tire specialist. He then moved to Hendrick Motorsports, and in 2001 Burdett earned a second championship with driver Jeff Gordon. In 2007, Burdett joined Michael Waltrip Racing, reuniting with Jarrett and serving as crew chief of the No. 44 team in the latter half of the season. It was there he honed his skills at the top level of NASCAR competition and leveraged the experience into a return to Hendrick Motorsports in 2008. In the five years since, Burdett excelled as car chief on the No. 24 team from 2008-10 before moving over to Dale Earnhardt Jr.’s No. 88 team from 2011-14. In 2015, he joined JR Motorsports as crew chief of the No. 7 car with driver Regan Smith; the pair finished fourth in series standings that season. Allgaier replaced Smith in the No. 7 car in 2016 and duo has worked together ever since producing eight wins and three Championship 4 appearances.
Team Talk: JR Motorsports has won three NASCAR Xfinity Series driver championships, all with Sunoco rookies – Chase Elliott in 2014, William Byron (2017) and Tyler Reddick (2018). JR Motorsports began its NASCAR Xfinity Series program in 2005 with driver Mark McFarland and since has won 46 series races; including two this season.
Christopher Bell (No. 20 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota Supra)
Joe Gibbs Racing’s Christopher Bell is having another outstanding NASCAR Xfinity Series season, putting up a career-best eight wins and clinching his spot in the Championship 4 for the second consecutive year. If Bell were to win the Xfinity title this weekend at Homestead-Miami Speedway, he would become just the fourth driver in NASCAR national series history to win both the NASCAR Gander Outdoors Truck Series and the NASCAR Xfinity Series championship in his career; joining Austin Dillon, Johnny Benson Jr. and Greg Biffle.
Bell has made 32 series starts in 2019 producing a career-best eight wins (Atlanta, Bristol-1, Dover-1, Iowa-1, New Hampshire, Road America, Richmond-2, Texas-2), 19 top fives, 20 top 10s and six poles (ISM Raceway-1, Texas-1, Charlotte, Iowa-2, Kansas, ISM Raceway-2). He has led 1,968 laps (series-most) this season and has managed an average start of 4.2 and an average finish of 9.2. In addition, Bell has posted solid season-to-date loop data stats, including a driver rating of 120.6 (series-best), an average running position of 6.139 (series-best), a total of 1,173 fastest laps run (series-most), and completed 85.3% of his laps (4,779) in the top 15 (eighth-best).
Playoffs Recap: Christopher Bell returns to NASCAR Xfinity Series Playoffs in 2019 looking for redemption after the title slipped through his fingers last season. Once again, the Round of 12 was a tumultuous one for Bell, he won the postseason opener at Richmond Raceway to clinch his spot in the Round of 8, but then fought through a 12th-place finish at the Charlotte Roval and a 25th-place finish at Dover International Speedway due to carburetor failure the next week. Much like the first round for Bell, the Round of 8 was filled with mixed results. He started on the pole at Kansas and finished 12th and then went to Texas the following week and won to clinch his spot in the Championship 4 for the second consecutive season. But last weekend he looked to have the dominate car at ISM Raceway after winning the pole, but due to an early pit penalty and subsequent spin when trying to come back through the field he finished 16th.
Homestead-Miami Outlook: Bell made his NASCAR Xfinity Series track debut at Homestead-Miami Speedway in 2017 while running part-time for Joe Gibbs Racing and competing fulltime in the NASCAR Gander Outdoors Truck Series. He started the race third but finished 36th due to an engine failure. Then last season at Miami as part of the Championship 4, Bell started on the outside front row, led nine laps and finished a disappointing 11th in the race – the lowest among the Championship 4 drivers – Tyler Reddick (first), Cole Custer (second), Daniel Hemric (fourth) and Bell (11th). Ultimately, he finished fourth in the series’ final championship standings. In his two Xfinity career starts at the track he has posted an average start of 2.5 and an average finish of 23.5. Bell has also made three NASCAR Gander Outdoors Series starts at Homestead-Miami Speedway posting one top five (runner-up), two top 10s and an average finish of 11.7.
Crew Chief Corner: Jason Ratcliff, crew chief for the Joe Gibbs Racing No. 20 Toyota Supra team with driver Christopher Bell, is one of the most successful crew chiefs in the series. He led Joe Gibbs Racing’s Kyle Busch to a unified NASCAR Xfinity Series driver and owner championship in 2009 and then followed that up with a second consecutive owner title in 2010. Ratcliff also guided Busch to the NASCAR Xfinity Series single season record of 13 wins in 2010. Ratcliff began his crew chief career in the NASCAR Xfinity Series back in 2000 at Brewco Motorsports working with driver Casey Atwood. He stayed at Brewco for three more years working with Jamie McMurray and David Green before joining Joe Gibbs Racing in in 2005. From then he has worked with multiple drivers in both the NASCAR Xfinity Series and Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series for Joe Gibbs Racing. Bell and Ratcliff combined to put up the NASCAR Xfinity Series rookie record of most wins in a single season with seven victories last year. In total the duo has visited Victory Lane 15 times in the two full seasons they have worked together (2018-2019). If Ratcliff leads Bell to a title this weekend, he will become the 11th different crew chief to win multiple driver championships in the NASCAR Xfinity Series.
Team Talk: Joe Gibbs Racing started its NASCAR Xfinity Series program in 1997 and since then has amassed 165 series victories, two unified driver and owner championships (2009 Kyle Busch and 2016 Daniel Suarez) and three owner championships (2008, 2010, 2012). The 2019 season marks the third time the Joe Gibbs Racing organization has fielded drivers in the Championship 4 – in 2016 (Erik Jones and Daniel Suarez), in 2018 and 2019 (Christopher Bell). If Joe Gibbs Racing wins the owner championship this season the organization will extend their series lead in owner titles to six.
Cole Custer (No. 00 Stewart-Haas Racing Ford Mustang)
After posting a career-best seven victories on the year, Stewart-Haas Racing’s Cole Custer returns to the NASCAR Xfinity Series Championship 4 for the second consecutive time in his career. In 2017, Custer fell just short of making the Championship 4, but at the end of the day finished fifth in the series standings as a rookie. Then last season, Custer fought hard for his opportunity to make the Championship 4 but finished runner-up in the season finale at Miami to Tyler Reddick. In the end, Custer managed to finish second in the 2018 driver Playoff standings and bring Stewart-Haas Racing its first series owner championship. Now the California native returns to Miami looking to add an Xfinity Series driver championship to his resume.
Custer has made 32 series starts in 2019 collecting a career-best seven wins (California, Richmond-1, Pocono, Chicago, Kentucky, Darlington, Dover-2), 16 top fives, 23 top 10s and six poles. He has also led 907 laps this season and has managed an average start of 5.7 and an average finish of 9.2. In addition, Custer has posted stout season-to-date loop data stats, including a driver rating of 113.0 (second-best), an average running position of 7.249 (fourth-best), a total of 763 fastest laps run (second-most), and completed 88.2% of his laps (4,944) in the top 15 (seventh-best).
Playoffs Recap: The California ace, Cole Custer, is laser focused on the title this season and it shows in his Playoff performance thus far. He started the postseason off with a third-place finish at Richmond, an eighth at the Charlotte Roval and then rounded out the Round of 12 with a victory at Dover International Speedway to advance. Custer’s good fortune continued in the Round of 8, he finished 11th at Kansas, eighth at Texas and secured his spot in the Championship 4 with a runner-up finish at ISM Raceway last weekend.
Homestead-Miami Outlook: Homestead-Miami Speedway holds a special place in Custer’s heart, because posted his first NASCAR Xfinity Series career win at the 1.5-mile track in dominating fashion in 2017. He started from the outside front row, leading 182 of the 200 scheduled laps (91% – a race record) and set the record average speed for the NASCAR Xfinity Series race at the track (136.140 MPH, 11/18/2017). Then last season among the Championship 4, he started from the pole, led a race-most 95 laps but finished runner-up to Tyler Reddick. In total Custer has made three series starts at Miami, posting an average start of 7.0 and an average finish of 6.7.
Crew Chief Corner: Mike Shiplett, crew chief of the Stewart-Haas Racing No. 00 Ford Mustang team, has spent most of his NASCAR career working with multiple part-time drivers during a season, but this year looks to make his name amongst the championship crew chiefs of the series. Shiplett began his NASCAR crew chief career with Evernham Motorsports in 2007 and in 2008 he was promoted to crew chief in the Monster Energy Series for Gillette Evernham Motorsports. Then in 2009, he moved to Richard Petty Motorsports to crew chief multiple drivers on No. 44 car in the Cup Series and hit it off with AJ Allmendinger, so he moved to No. 43 car with him in 2010-11. Shiplett then returned to NASCAR Xfinity Series as crew chief on a part-time basis working with Turner Scott Motorsport in 2012-2014 until the team was acquired by Chip Ganassi Racing in 2015. He worked with multiple drivers in the series at CGR from 2015 until this season when he joined Stewart-Haas Racing after Chip Ganassi Racing discontinued its Xfinity program following 2018. In total Shiplett has led seven different drivers to Victory Lane in the NASCAR Xfinity Series totaling 24 wins. This season, Shiplett has led the No. 00 team with Cole Custer to seven victories, 16 top fives and 23 top 10s. Shiplett is looking to become the 27th different crew chief to win a NASCAR Xfinity Series driver championship.
Team Talk: Stewart-Haas Racing started its NASCAR Xfinity Series program in 2017, fielding the No. 00 Ford Mustang team fulltime with driver Cole Custer. Since then the team has finished fifth (2017) and second (2018) in the driver championship standings. Custer’s runner-up finish in the 2018 season finale was good enough to grant Stewart-Haas Racing with its first NASCAR Xfinity Series owner championship. Now the organization returns with the No. 00 team looking to bring home the organization’s first unified driver and owner championship this weekend. The 2019 season marks the second-time a Stewart-Haas Racing driver has made it to the Championship 4 – 2018, 2019 (Cole Custer).
Tyler Reddick (No. 2 Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet Camaro)
Defending NASCAR Xfinity Series champion Tyler Reddick heads to Homestead-Miami Speedway looking to become just the seventh driver all-time to win back-to-back titles; joining Sam Ard (1983-84), Larry Pearson (1986-87), Randy LaJoie (1996-97), Dale Earnhardt Jr. (1998-99), Martin Truex Jr. (2004-05) and Ricky Stenhouse Jr. (2011-12). And he would be the first to do it under two different teams – Reddick won last season’s title driving for JR Motorsports. But what’s even more impressive is Reddick’s 2019 season has been even better statistically than his championship rookie year. The California native has hoisted a career-best five trophies this season and leads the series in top fives (23) and top 10s (26).
Reddick has made 32 series starts in 2019 rallying off five wins (Talladega, Charlotte, Michigan, Bristol and Las Vegas), 23 top fives, and 26 top 10s. He has also led 484 laps this season and has managed an average start of 6.2 and an average finish of 6.5. In addition, Reddick has posted notable season-to-date loop data stats, including a driver rating of 110.5 (third-best), an average running position of 6.779 (third-best), a total of 519 fastest laps run (third-most), and completed 90.6% of his laps (5,074) in the top 15 (third-best).
Playoffs Recap: Reddick has been strong during the 2019 NASCAR Xfinity Series Playoffs, kicking off the postseason with a 10th-place finish at Richmond Raceway, a runner-up finish at the Charlotte Roval and then a 12th at Dover International Speedway to close out the Round of 12. Reddick’s Round of 8 was also full of momentum, he finished runner-up at Kansas, sat on the pole at Texas but finished 29th due to a late-race incident and then locked himself into the Championship 4 with a third-place finish at ISM Raceway last weekend.
Homestead-Miami Outlook: Expect Reddick to be poised to give it all he has this weekend for the title, as he put on a clinic last season at Homestead-Miami Speedway en route to his first series championship. In 2017, Reddick made his series track debut by winning the pole and leading 18 laps on his way to a fourth-place finish. Then last season, he started fourth and raced his way up to the lead, bouncing off the outside wall multiple times. He led the final 37 laps as he cruised to Victory Lane and the championship. In two starts his average finish at Miami is 2.5 – best among the Championship 4. Reddick also has three NASCAR Gander Outdoors Series starts at Homestead, where he amassed two top fives, three top 10s and an average finish of 3.7.
Crew Chief Corner: Randall Burnett, a former Late Model racer, received a mechanical engineering degree from UNC Charlotte before beginning his career in NASCAR in 2005 as a 7-post analysis engineer, a lead team engineer and a data acquisition engineer for Chip Ganassi Racing. Then in 2010, Burnett was named lead race engineer for driver Jamie McMurray (2010-2012) at Chip Ganassi Racing in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series. The following seasons he worked with Juan Pablo Montoya (2013) and Kyle Larson (2014-2015). In 2016 and 2017, Burnett was promoted to crew chief and took a job with JTG Daugherty Racing leading driver AJ Allmendinger. Then in late 2017, Burnett moved to Richard Childress Racing to work as crew chief on RCR’s Xfinity Series flagship car – the No. 2 Chevrolet – with multiple drivers. In 2018 he led Matt Tifft to the NASCAR Xfinity Series Playoffs, the pair finished fifth in the final standings. Burnett continued with the No. 2 team this season and has led Reddick to five wins, 23 top fives and 26 top 10s. Burnett is looking to become the 27th different crew chief to win a NASCAR Xfinity Series driver championship.
Team Talk: Richard Childress Racing has won two NASCAR Xfinity Series unified driver and owner championships with driver Kevin Harvick in 2001 and 2006. In addition, RCR has won two driver championships with Austin Dillon in 2013 and Clint Bowyer in 2008. The organization has also won Xfinity Series owner championships in 2003 and in 2007. Richard Childress Racing began its NASCAR Xfinity Series program in 1995 and since has won 84 series races. The 2019 season marks the third time the Richard Childress Racing organization has fielded drivers in the Championship 4 – in 2017 and 2018 with Daniel Hemric and now in 2019 with Tyler Reddick.
NASCAR Xfinity Series, Etc.
Sunoco Rookie of the Year finale – Just two NASCAR Xfinity Series Sunoco Rookies are still eligible for the 2019 end of the year honors – Stewart-Haas Racing with Fred Biagi’s Chase Briscoe (2,252 points) and JR Motorsport’s Noah Gragson (2,208). Briscoe currently leads the rookie standings by 44 points over second-place Gragson. Briscoe made his series track debut at Homestead last season where he started and finished 13th. This weekend will be Gragson’s series track debut at Miami.
Xfinity Owner championship update – The four cars and drivers that made it to the driver Playoff standings Championship 4 are the same in the owner Playoff standings this season; guaranteeing a unified driver and owner championship this year.