Saturday’s Drive for the Cure 250 Race Preview

The NASCAR Xfinity Series Playoffs are notoriously unpredictable, and one of the biggest wild cards for the competitors is this Saturday’s 38th annual Drive for the Cure 250 presented by Blue Cross Blue Shield of North Carolina at 3:30 p.m. ET on NBCSN, PRN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio at the Charlotte Motor Speedway Road Course.

Charlotte’s recently added road course is unlike any other track on the NASCAR Xfinity Series schedule and provides a unique challenge. The course spans a multi-elevational 2.32 miles with 17 turns; including a redesigned backstretch chicane.

NASCAR Xfinity Series
Active Road Course Winners
Rank Race Winners Road Course Wins
1 Justin Allgaier 3
2 AJ Allmendinger 2
3 Austin Cindric 2
4 Christopher Bell 1
5 Chase Briscoe 1
6 Jeremy Clements 1

 

Last season’s inaugural NASCAR Xfinity Series event at the Charlotte Motor Speedway road course, nicknamed the “Roval,” saw four lead changes, five cautions as then part-time series driver Chase Briscoe dominated the majority of the race, leading 33 laps of the scheduled 55 laps to take his first Xfinity career win. Briscoe returns as a Xfinity Series Sunoco Rookie of the Year contender this weekend to defend his win and attempt to make his way into the next round of the Playoffs. Briscoe is currently seventh in the series Playoff standings, 17 points ahead of the cutoff.

This weekend’s Playoff race will be 67 laps (155.3-miles / 250 kilometers) and broken up into three stages. The first two stages will be 20 laps each and the final stage will be 27 laps (20/40/67).

A total of 35 different drivers have won at least one race on a road course in the NACAR Xfinity Series, and six of them are active this weekend, led by Justin Allgaier with three road course victories.

Charlotte is the fourth and final road course on the schedule this season. The winners of the previous three road courses this year are Austin Cindric (Watkins Glen and Mid-Ohio) and Christopher Bell (Road America).

Xfinity Playoff standings heat up following postseason opener at Richmond

Joe Gibbs Racing’s Christopher Bell rocketed to the front of the NASCAR Xfinity Series Playoff driver standings with his big win in last weekend’s postseason opener at Richmond Raceway, bringing his season total to seven checkered flags. Only eight drivers will move on to the next round, and with Bell now locked in on wins, only seven Playoff spots remain as the series heads to Charlotte for the second race in the Round of 12 – the Drive for the Cure 250 presented by Blue Cross Blue Shield of North Carolina this Saturday (3:30 p.m. ET on NBCSN, PRN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio).

Clinch Scenarios: Charlotte Motor Speedway Roval (Race #2)

As we all know, each of the drivers in the Playoffs can clinch a spot in the Round of 8 by winning at Charlotte.

Cole Custer (second), Tyler Reddick (third), Austin Cindric (fourth), Justin Allgaier (fifth) and Michael Annett (sixth) could also clinch a next round spot on points by being 61 points ahead of ninth place.

Chase Briscoe (seventh) could also clinch on points with a repeat winner (or a win by Custer, Reddick, Cindric, Allgaier or Annett) and help.

Noah Gragson (eighth), Brandon Jones (ninth), Ryan Sieg (10th), Justin Haley (11th) and John H. Nemechek (12th) can only clinch a spot in the next round with a win – not by points – this weekend at Charlotte.

NASCAR Xfinity Series Playoff Standings following Richmond (Playoff Opener)

 

Rank Driver Points Starts Race Wins Stage Wins Playoff Pts Pts From Cutoff
1 Christopher Bell (P) 2,115 27 7 17 62 In On Wins
2 Cole Custer (P) 2,093 27 6 6 44 60
3 Tyler Reddick (P) 2,071 27 5 4 44 38
4 Austin Cindric (P) 2,067 27 2 1 17 34
5 Justin Allgaier (P) 2,054 27 0 5 12 21
6 Michael Annett (P) 2,051 27 1 1 9 18
7 Chase Briscoe # (P) 2,050 27 1 2 12 17
8 Noah Gragson # (P) 2,048 27 0 1 5 15
9 Brandon Jones (P) 2,033 27 0 3 4 -15
10 Ryan Sieg (P) 2,029 27 0 1 1 -19
11 Justin Haley # (P) 2,028 27 0 1 3 -20
12 John H. Nemechek # (P) 2,027 27 0 0 0 -21

 

Playoff Standing’s Top 8 Driver-By-Driver Rundown

Cole Custer currently sits second in the NASCAR Xfinity Series Playoff standings, 60 points ahead of the cutoff. This season Custer has put up six wins, 14 top fives, 19 top 10s, six poles and has led 782 laps. Plus, last weekend he finished third in the 2019 Playoff opener at Richmond.

Last season at the Roval, he started sixth and finished seventh. Then followed it up with a runner-up finish at Dover to advance to the Round of 8.

This season Custer has the seventh-best average finish (8.3) from the three previous road course stops on the 2019 Xfinity Series schedule (Watkins Glen, Mid-Ohio and Road America).

Tyler Reddick is ranked third in the NASCAR Xfinity Series Playoff standings, 38 points ahead of the cutoff. This season Reddick has collected five wins, 20 top fives (series-most), 23 top 10s (series-most), three poles and has led 448 laps. His performance at Richmond last weekend was another solid run, garnering a 10th-place finish.

Last season at the Roval, Reddick started third and finished ninth. He then followed that up with a 14th-place finish at Dover to advance to the Round of 8.

This season he has the third-best average finish (4.0) from the three previous road course stops on the 2019 Xfinity Series schedule (Watkins Glen, Mid-Ohio and Road America).

Austin Cindric is ranked fourth in the NASCAR Xfinity Series Playoff standings, 34 points ahead of the cutoff. This season Cindric has proven to be a road course ace, grabbing two wins (Watkins Glen and Mid-Ohio) at those types of tracks, and overall has 11 top fives, 19 top 10s, four poles and has led 97 laps. Then last weekend, he won the pole and finished runner-up to Christopher Bell in the 2019 Playoff opener at Richmond.

Last season at the Roval, Cindric started from the pole and finished third. He then backed that up with an eighth-place finish at Dover to advance to the Round of 8.

This season he has the series-best average finish (1.3) from the three previous road course stops on the 2019 Xfinity Series schedule (Watkins Glen, Mid-Ohio and Road America).

Justin Allgaier currently sits fifth in the NASCAR Xfinity Series Playoff standings, 21 points ahead of the cutoff. Allgaier is still looking for his first win this season, but has managed 12 top fives, 19 top 10s and has led 455 laps. Plus, last weekend he started second and finished fourth in the 2019 Playoff opener at Richmond.

Last season at the Roval, he started 12th and finished 15th. But he bounced back with a third-place finish at Dover the following weekend to advance to the Round of 8.

This season he has the fourth-best average finish (6.0) from the three previous road course stops on the 2019 Xfinity Series schedule (Watkins Glen, Mid-Ohio and Road America). He also leads all active drivers in Xfinity road course wins with three victories.

Michael Annett is ranked sixth in the NASCAR Xfinity Series Playoff standings, 18 points ahead of the cutoff. This season Annett has accumulated one win, five top fives, 16 top 10s, one pole and has led 90 laps. Last weekend he started 10th and finished ninth in the 2019 Playoff opener at Richmond.

Last season’s Round of 12 races were a challenge for Annett, even though he wasn’t in the Playoffs; he finished 14th at Richmond, 20th at the Roval and 12th at Dover.

This season he has the 10th-best average finish (11.0) from the three previous road course stops on the 2019 Xfinity Series schedule (Watkins Glen, Mid-Ohio and Road America).

Chase Briscoe heads to Charlotte ranked seventh in the NASCAR Xfinity Series Playoff standings, a mere 17 points ahead of the cutoff. This season, Briscoe has gathered a win, 10 top fives, 21 top 10s and has led 44 laps. On top of all that, last weekend he started and finished fifth in the 2019 Playoff opener at Richmond.

Briscoe returns to the Roval as the defending winner with hopes of another victory to carry him to the next round of the Playoffs. A solid finish this weekend is crucial to Briscoe’s postseason title hunt as last season he struggled in the Dover Playoff race, finishing 19th.

This season he has the sixth-best average finish (6.7) from the three previous road course stops on the 2019 Xfinity Series schedule (Watkins Glen, Mid-Ohio and Road America). Plus, he is one of just six active Xfinity road course winners entered this weekend.

Noah Gragson is currently feeling the heat in the Playoff hot seat, ranked eighth (in final transfer spot) in the NASCAR Xfinity Series Playoff standings just 15 points ahead of the cutoff – ninth-place Brandon Jones. Gragson’s rookie campaign has yet to take him to Victory Lane this season, but he has managed seven top fives, 18 top 10s and has led 62 laps. Last weekend he started eighth and finished seventh in the 2019 Playoff opener at Richmond.

Gragson will be making his series track debut at the Roval this weekend.

Earlier this season he put up the fifth-best average finish (6.0) from the three previous road course stops on the 2019 Xfinity Series schedule (Watkins Glen, Mid-Ohio and Road America).

“I’m really looking forward to tackling the Roval this weekend,” said Noah Gragson. “The Roval is such a unique road course and I feel really confident that we can unload with the same speed that we had at the three previous road courses this year. Hopefully we can just have a smooth day on Saturday and avoid any potential trouble out there to keep building our points cushion and advance to the next round in the Playoffs.”

Playoff Bubble: Outside looking in with two races left in the Round of 12

With the close competition in the NASCAR Xfinity Series this season, there is only one real option that guarantees the drivers currently outside the Playoff cutoff to advance to the next round – and that’s to win. But keep in mind there is always chance they could point their way into the next round as well with a little help from those above the cut line.

Joe Gibbs Racing’s Brandon Jones announced this week he will be returning next season to the JGR camp to once again compete for a Xfinity title. Currently the up-and-coming star is ninth in the NASCAR Xfinity Series driver Playoff standings, 15 points back from the Round of 8’s final transfer spot (eighth-place Noah Gragson). Jones is having a career season, posting four top fives and 13 top 10s. But his Playoffs did not start like he anticipated, he qualified 11th and finished 11th at Richmond last weekend.

Turning to the Roval this weekend, Jones is looking to keep his Playoff aspirations alive, but it will be a challenge. Jones started last season’s event 22nd and finished 22nd. This season he has put up the 11th-best average finish (14.3) from the three previous road course stops on the 2019 Xfinity Series schedule (Watkins Glen, Mid-Ohio and Road America).

RSS Racing’s Ryan Sieg is currently 10th in the Xfinity Playoff standings, 19 points behind eighth-place Noah Gragson in the postseason’s final transfer spot to the next round. This year, Sieg has wheeled two top fives and nine top 10s in his career-best series performance.

Looking ahead to Charlotte this Saturday, Sieg returns to the road course looking to rebound from last season when he was sidelined early in the race due to suspension issues; he ultimately finished the event 36th. This season he has the 13th-best average finish (19.0) from the three previous road course stops on the 2019 Xfinity Series schedule (Watkins Glen, Mid-Ohio and Road America).

Kaulig Racing’s Justin Haley is holding on to 11th in the NASCAR Xfinity Series Playoff standings, 20 points behind eighth-place Noah Gragson in the final Playoff transfer spot. Haley has been navigating his rookie season quite well, amassing three top fives and 17 top 10s. But his Playoff hopes took a shot last weekend at Richmond after he qualified a respectable seventh but dropped to 17th for the finish.

Now with just two races left in the Round of 12 to advance to the Round of 8, Haley will have his work cut out for him as he will be making his series track debut at the Roval this weekend. On the bright side, though, Haley has run well on the road courses this season, posting the eighth-best average finish (9.3) on the three previous road course stops in 2019.

Last, but not least, is GMS Racing’s John Hunter Nemechek who currently sits 12th in the NASCAR Xfinity Series Playoffs, 21 points behind eighth-place Noah Gragson in the final transfer spot. Nemechek’s rookie season has seen four top fives and 13 top 10s. But he started 38th in the Playoff opener at Richmond and wrestled a 15th-place finish from the competition. As a result, he now faces possible elimination from the Playoffs in the next two races.

And just when Nemechek thought it couldn’t be much more difficult to keep his title hunt alive, he will have to make his series track debut at the Roval this weekend.

Keep in mind, if Haley and Nemechek do not advance to the next round, not only will their championship chances be dashed but they will also be eliminated from contention for the Sunoco Rookie of the Year title.

First-Time Winners Are Common On Xfinity Road Courses

NASCAR Xfinity Series
First-Time Winners On Road Courses
First-Time Winners Track Date
1 Austin Cindric Watkins Glen 8/3/2019
2 Chase Briscoe Charlotte RC 9/29/2018
3 Jeremy Clements Road America 8/27/2017
4 Michael McDowell Road America 8/27/2016
5 Justin Marks Mid-Ohio 8/13/2016
6 Chris Buescher Mid-Ohio 8/16/2014
7 Brendan Gaughan Road America 6/21/2014
8 AJ Allmendinger Road America 6/22/2013
9 Nelson Piquet Jr Road America 6/23/2012
10 Boris Said Montreal 8/29/2010
11 Marcos Ambrose Watkins Glen 8/9/2008
12 Juan Pablo Montoya Mexico City 3/4/2007
13 Denny Hamlin Mexico City 3/5/2006
14 Ron Fellows Watkins Glen 6/28/1998
15 Bill Elliott Watkins Glen 6/26/1993

Since 1982, road courses in the NASCAR Xfinity Series have produced 15 first-time series winners; including Chase Briscoe’s first career win last season at the Charlotte Motor Speedway Roval and Austin Cindric’s victory at Watkins Glen earlier this season.

Road America stakes claim to the lion’s share of the Xfinity Series 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).

In this Saturday’s Drive for the Cure 250 presented by Blue Cross Blue Shield of North Carolina at 3:30 p.m. ET on NBCSN, PRN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio at the Charlotte Motor Speedway Road Course, there are 26 drivers entered in the field looking for their first NASCAR Xfinity Series career win.

A total of 15 drivers entered this weekend will be making their series track debut at the Charlotte Motor Speedway Road Course – AJ Allmendinger, Brandon Brown, Harrison Burton, Gray Gaulding, Noah Gragson, Justin Haley, Stephen Leicht, Tommy Joe Martins, BJ McLeod, John Hunter Nemechek, Joe Nemechek, Preston Pardus, Will Rodgers, Cody Ware and Josh Williams.

NASCAR Xfinity Series, Etc.

Road Ace AJ Allmendinger returns for Roval – Aptly known for his skills on the road courses, AJ Allmendinger will return to the series to strap into the No. 10 Kaulig Racing’s Chevrolet for this weekend’s Xfinity festivities at the Charlotte Motor Speedway Road Course. This Saturday will be his series track debut, though he is not a stranger to the newly introduced course, he competed on the 2.32-mile track last season in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series, where he started second and finished seventh. Allmendinger has made four Xfinity Series starts already this season posting one top-five finish (Mid-Ohio) and has led laps in the three of the four races.

Harrison Burton to pilot JGR’s No. 18 – Following the first race of the Playoffs at Richmond last weekend, the Joe Gibbs Racing No. 18 team is ranked ninth in the owner Playoff standings, 14 points behind the eighth-place JR Motorsport’s No. 9 team that holds the final Playoff transfer position. Back in the No. 18 JGR Toyota this weekend will be Harrison Burton, who jumped into the postseason with a sixth-place run at Richmond last weekend. Burton has made just four previous starts for JGR this season, posting one top five and three top 10s. It will be Burton’s series track debut at the Roval and his first attempt at a road course in the series, period.

Ryan Truex jumps in JRM’s No. 8 – Following the first race of the Playoffs at Richmond last weekend, the JR Motorsports No. 8 team is ranked 11th in the owner Playoff standings, 18 points behind their eighth-place JR Motorsports teammates with the No. 9 – in the final Playoff transfer position. Ryan Truex has been tapped to pilot the No. 8 JRM Chevrolet this weekend at the Roval after Zane Smith kicked off the Playoffs at Richmond with an eighth-place finish last weekend. Truex has made four series starts with the No. 8 team this season, posting one top five and three top 10s.

“Road course racing is always a fun challenge and I’m really looking forward to getting back to turning left and right this weekend at the Roval,” said Truex.  “The track will be a little bit different than the race last year with the adjustments done to the chicane so I am interested to see how that will look on Friday. I’m just ready to get back behind the wheel of this No. 8 Chevrolet.”

Last season Truex drove for Kaulig Racing at the Roval and started 11th and finished 16th.

 

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