NASCAR Xfinity Series’ DC Solar 200 at Phoenix Preview

NASCAR Xfinity Series teams are about to run the DC Solar 200 at ISM Raceway in Phoenix on Saturday, March 10th at 4 pm ET. Pre-race coverage begins on FOX at 3:30 pm ET along with radio coverage on MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio. 

Distance: 200 miles (200 laps); Stage 1 (Ends on lap 45),

Stage 2 (Ends on lap 90), Final Stage (Ends on lap 200

What to Watch For: The championship standings are so close it feels more like the Playoffs than the early season with JR Motorsports teammates Tyler Reddick and Elliott Sadler tied for the lead and rookie Christopher Bell in third-place, 23-points back.

The last two ISM Raceway winners have been Xfinity Series regulars (William Byron and Justin Allgaier).

Kyle Busch has an amazing ten wins in 21 Xfinity Series races at ISM Raceway.

Jamie McMurray is racing this weekend. He won this event in 2004.

Update at the Track – Early in Friday’s first NASCAR Xfinity Series practice at ISM Raceway, the engine in Elliott Sadler’s No. 1 JR Motorsports Chevrolet expired, trailing a plume of heavy smoke as the car slowed. Tied for the series lead with teammate Tyler Reddick after last week’s Las Vegas race, Sadler will start Saturday’s DC Solar 200 from the rear of the field because of the engine change.

“No warning at all from our side,” Sadler said of the failure. “We’ll go debrief and see what happened and go from there. It’s just a fluke deal.”

Sadler’s crew had the new engine in place for final practice, and Sadler returned to the track ten minutes into the session and posted the 11th fastest lap


Teammates Reddick, Sadler Atop-Series Standings Separated by a Win

It doesn’t get much closer than this. JR Motorsports teammates Tyler Reddick and Elliott Sadler are currently tied in points (123 points each) atop-the NASCAR Xfinity Series championship standings, and the only thing separating the two is the tiebreaker – a win (Reddick’s season-opening victory at Daytona).

While the JR Motorsport’s driver lineup might be slightly different this season with the 2017 series champion, William Byron, moving up to the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series and Tyler Reddick climbing into the No. 9 car, the organization’s NASCAR Xfinity Series formula seems to bring the same results – success.

Last year, JR Motorsports finished the 2017 season with three of its four teams in the top-three in the driver Playoff standings – the first organization in series history to pull off such a feat. Now, this season, the organization led by Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Kelley Earnhardt Miller has three of its four teams in the top-four in points and they all look poised to contend for a title this season.

Tyler Reddick, a Sunoco Rookie of the Year contender, kicked the season off by winning at Daytona and virtually locking himself into the Playoffs. He then followed that up with a 19th-place finish at Atlanta and a solid eighth-place finish at Las Vegas last weekend. Now the series points leader heads to ISM Raceway looking to improve on his series track debut performance from last season where he started 15th and finished 14th.

Veteran Elliott Sadler, by virtue of the tiebreaker, is ranked second in the series standings as he and the No. 1 JRM team head to Phoenix this weekend. Sadler has made 18 starts at ISM Raceway, posting one win (spring race of 2012), five top-fives, nine top-tens and an average finish of 12.1.

Joe Gibbs Racing’s Rookie Christopher Bell is Proving He’s a Title Contender

Despite a tough season-opener at Daytona in which he only ran 11 laps, finished 39th and started off the year 31st in points, the Joe Gibbs Racing rookie Christopher Bell has bounced back quite nicely in the last two races. At Atlanta and Las Vegas, he won back-to-back poles and finished on the podium of both events.

Plus, in the process, the Norman, Oklahoma native leapfrogged the competition from 31st to third in the NASCAR Xfinity Series championship standings; just 23-points back from the series lead.

“A wise guy once told me, if you win enough they can’t ignore you,” said Bell following his runner-up finish at Las Vegas.

As the 2017 NASCAR Camping World Truck Series champion, it should be no surprise Bell is already in the conversation of title contender as he heads into the fourth race of his NASCAR Xfinity Series rookie season. Led by veteran crew chief Jason Ratcliff, who guided Kyle Busch to his 2009 NASCAR Xfinity Series title, the 23-year old Bell has managed to post two top-five finishes in three starts this season.

Bell also is ranked second in the Sunoco Rookie of the Year standings, 23 points behind rookie standings leader Tyler Reddick.

“My dream as a kid was to be able to drive a racecar for a living and I have been able to do that since I was 16,” said Bell.

Bell will be making his second series start at ISM Raceway this weekend in the No. 20 JGR Toyota. Bell made his series track debut at the famous one-mile raceway last season, where he ran up front all day – starting eighth and finishing fourth. 

Stage Points Already Making a Difference In 2018

Just three races into the 2018 NASCAR Xfinity Series season and stage points are already a factor in the hunt for the series title. A total of 13 drivers have scored stage points this season, led by JR Motorsports driver Tyler Reddick’ 36 stage points, which to put it into perspective, makes up 29.2% of his driver championships points total (123).

To score stage points a driver must finish in the top-ten at the conclusion of the first two stages of a race. The top-five in stage points this season are Tyler Reddick (36 points), Christopher Bell (30), Justin Allgaier (24), Elliott Sadler (24) and Daniel Hemric (16).

Last weekend at Las Vegas, Christopher Bell became the first series title contender this season to win a stage, when he grabbed the green and white checkered flag for Stage 1. Through three races, Bell has accumulated 30 stage points; which accounts for the highest percentage (30%) of a driver’s championship points total (Bell has 100 total points) among stage points accumulators this season.

Stage points played a pivotal role in the series championship last season; the top-four drivers in amassing stage points were the same drivers to make the NASCAR Xfinity Series Playoff’s Championship 4 Round – Elliott Sadler (270 total stage points), Justin Allgaier (242), William Byron (179) and Daniel Hemric (161).      

Third Time’s The Charm:

JR Motorsports Looking for Third Straight Win at ISM Raceway

ISM Raceway was swept last season by JR Motorsports drivers, Justin Allgaier (spring race) and 2017 NASCAR Xfinity Series champion William Byron (Playoff race), and this season the powerhouse organization returns with another strong stable of drivers to try to make it three in a row. If JR Motorsports pulls off a third consecutive win this weekend at ISM Raceway, they will become the second organization to accomplish the feat in the NASCAR Xfinity Series, joining Joe Gibbs Racing, who won four straight from the fall 2012 race to the spring 2014 race, and then won three straight from the fall 2015 race-2016 sweep.

As the defending winner of this event, Justin Allgaier leads the JR Motorsports contingent this weekend into ISM Raceway. The Riverton, Illinois, native is looking for his first win of the season, as he currently sits fourth in the series standings after posting one top-five and two top-tens in the first three races of 2018. Allgaier has made 15 series starts at ISM Raceway, posting one win (2017), five top-fives and ten top-tens.

Allgaier’s teammate Elliott Sadler is also a good candidate to bring home the third-straight win for JRM this weekend. The Emporia, Virginia native has made 18 starts at ISM Raceway, posting one win (spring race of 2012), five top-fives, nine top-tens and an average finish of 12.1. He finished fifth in this event last season.

Tyler Reddick and Michael Annett are both still looking for their first series ISM Raceway win this weekend. Reddick made his series track debut at ISM Raceway last season, finishing 14th. Annett has made 11 series starts at ISM Raceway, posting four top-tens. He finished ninth in this race last season.   

Perfection Obtained

Since the inception of NASCAR’s Loop Data in 2005, the NASCAR Xfinity Series has seen 67 perfect driver rating (150.0) performances, posted by 20 different drivers. Kyle Busch leads the series in perfect driver rating performances with 28; followed by Carl Edwards with seven and Brad Keselowski with six. Mark Martin posted the NASCAR Xfinity Series’ very first perfect driver rating performance in 2005 at Auto Club Speedway.

A driver can obtain a perfect driver rating of 150.0 by dominating all facets of the race and winning. This season, the NASCAR Xfinity Series has witnessed two perfect driver rating performances in the first three races. Kevin Harvick posted his second series career perfect driver rating performance at Atlanta Motor Speedway two weeks ago (Feb. 24). His first series career perfect driver rating performance was back in 2014 at Richmond Raceway.

Kyle Larson is the latest addition to the list of drivers with perfect driver rating performances in the NASCAR Xfinity Series after he dominated the Las Vegas Motor Speedway contest last weekend.

The 2010 and 2015 NASCAR Xfinity Series seasons are tied for the most perfect driver rating performances in a single season with nine each. Since 2005, the only Xfinity Series season to not have at least one perfect driver rating performance is 2006.

NASCAR Xfinity Series – ISM Raceway – Perfect Driver Ratings





Driver Rating


ISM Raceway

Carl Edwards




ISM Raceway

Kyle Busch




ISM Raceway

Kyle Busch




ISM Raceway

Kyle Busch




ISM Raceway

Joey Logano




ISM Raceway

Kyle Busch



ISM Raceway has been the home to six perfect driver rating performances posted by three different drivers.

If we see a third consecutive perfect driver rating performance this weekend, it will be the third time in series history drivers have posted three consecutive perfect driver rating performances – the first two times it occurred were in 2010 at Iowa (Kyle Busch), Watkins Glen (Marcos Ambrose) and Michigan (Brad Keselowski); and again in 2011 at Chicago (Brad Keselowski), Dover (Carl Edwards) and Kansas (Brad Keselowski). 

Also Noteworthy…

West Coast Natives In The Series: The NASCAR Xfinity Series has headed out West for the #NASCARGoesWest portion of the 2018 schedule (Las Vegas, Phoenix, California) which is a perfect time to turn the spotlight on the active drivers this season from the same area – (in alphabetical order) – Kyle Busch (Las Vegas, NV), Cole Custer (Ladera Ranch, CA), Spencer Gallagher (Las Vegas, NV), Kyle Larson (Elk Grove, CA), Dylan Lupton (Sacramento, CA), Tyler Reddick (Corning, CA), Ryan Reed (Bakersfield, CA) and JJ Yeley (Phoenix, AZ).

Jamie McMurray Returns To Xfinity: Not since the September 6, 2013 race at Richmond Raceway, approximately four and a half years ago, has Jamie McMurray competed in the NASCAR Xfinity Series. But all that will change this weekend, as the veteran Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series driver will pilot the No. 42 Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet at ISM Raceway. McMurray’s Xfinity career has seen 187 starts, eight wins, 31 top-fives and 68 top-10s; including a win at ISM Raceway in 2004.

Monster Mash: A total of four Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series driver are entered in the DC Solar 200 this weekend – Ty Dillon (No. 3 Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet), Kyle Busch (No. 18 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota), Brad Keselowski (No. 22 Team Penske Ford) and Jamie McMurray (No. 42 Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet).