The NASCAR XFINITY Series Playoff’s first round will come to a close this weekend at Dover International Speedway in the Use Your Melon Drive Sober 200 (3 p.m. ET on NBCSN, MRN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio). Four of the 12 Playoff drivers will be eliminated and eight will move on to the next round.
Two drivers have already clinched their spots in the NASCAR XFINITY Series Playoff Round of 8 – Joe Gibbs Racing’s Christopher Bell by winning the Richmond Playoff opener and Stewart-Haas Racing’s Cole Custer who clinched his position on points last weekend at Charlotte.
The remaining six positions in the NASCAR XFINITY Series Playoffs will be decided this Saturday. All 10 drivers vying for those remaining six spots can win their way into the next round this weekend.
But, I doubt that anyone can really stop Bell, Custer or Tyler Reddick in Saturday’s race. That means we will have several spots available for other drivers. In my mind, it really comes down to the final spot.
I feel like Reddick (+52), Austin Cindric (+50), Justin Allgaier (+40), Chase Briscoe (+35) and Noah Gragson (+26) are safe.
Reddick, was third and seventh respectively in practice on Friday. Allgaier, was fifth in both sessions while Briscoe was first and second respectively himself.
That leaves Michael Annett (+11) vs. John Hunter Nemechek (-11), Brandon Jones (-11), Ryan Sieg (-37) and Justin Haley (-39) vying for that eighth and final position into the Round of 8. So, who takes that spot?
I feel like two can make it on points.
Annett, has scored just one top 10 finish over his last seven results on the season. In fact, he hasn’t finished better than eighth in his last 11 starts on the year too. But, he does have 18 top 15 finishes in his last 19 tries and 10 straight top 15’s at Dover? He was 10th back in May and 14th and 10th respectively in practice on Friday afternoon.
Nemechek, has never earned a top five before at Dover in seven combined NXS/Truck Series starts. He has two top 10 finishes in his last three starts on the season but one top five in his last nine though. He was only 10th and 15th himself in practice this weekend.
It’s a battle between them right now because Sieg and Haley are too far out to make it in my opinion on points. Neither have won a race before in the series as Sieg has zero top 10 finishes in 11 career tries at Dover. He has one top 10 in his last 10 starts on the season as well. He also has only scored two top five finishes all season, one in the season opener at Daytona and the other back in April in Richmond.
Haley, finished 17th at Dover in May and has one finish better than fifth all year which was a runner-up at Michigan back in June. He does have 17 top 10 finishes all year, best among all four of these drivers, but a top 10 won’t cut it on Saturday. The Kaulig Racing driver has to win.
My picks to advance to the second round are Bell, Custer, Reddick,