NASCAR Xfinity Series Go Bowling 250 at Richmond Preview

NASCAR Xfinity Series teams a prepping for the Go Bowling 250 at Richmond Raceway on Friday, September 21st at 7:30 pm ET. Television coverage is available on NBCSN starting at 7 pm ET with radio coverage on MRN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio.

Richmond Raceway is a 0.75-mile paved oval short track with 14 degrees of banking in the turns. The Go Bowling 250 race will be a true test for the competitors, totaling 250 laps broken up into three stages – Stage 1 and 2 will be 75 laps each and the Final Stage will be a 100-lap shootout.

What to Watch For:

Five-race winner Justin Allgaier leads the Playoff drivers as the points are reset, followed by four-time winner, rookie Christopher Bell.

The next ten drivers in the 12-driver Playoff field are separated by only 11-points.

There have been seven different winners in the last seven Xfinity races at Richmond. Bell won here in the Spring. Cup driver Brad Keselowski is the defending winner of this Fall race.

Elliott Sadler won the Playoff opener in 2016 when it was at Kentucky Speedway. That is his last victory in the series although he advanced to the Championship 4 the last two years. Elliott, who announced he will retire from full-time competition following the season, is currently ranked third in the Playoff points.

Ross Chastain earned his first ever series victory last week at Las Vegas and it boosted his Playoff ranking to sixth-place. He makes his last start in the No. 42 Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet this week. He drove the car to a win at Vegas and led 90 laps in it at Darlington before he was involved in an accident.

Dale Earnhardt Jr. will make his only NASCAR start of the season in this race, driving the No. 88 Chevrolet for his JR Motorsports team. He will also provide live in-race analysis for NBCSN, where he normally calls NASCAR races from the booth and will work there for the Cup race on Sunday.

Earnhardt has proven to be especially good at Richmond. He has four Xfinity wins at the track, including his last victory in the series in 2016. He also has three Cup victories at the venue.

Kyle Busch earned his first ever Xfinity Series victory here (from the pole position) in 2004. He has since won 91 more Xfinity races and is the all-time winningest driver in series history.

Kevin Harvick is the all-time winningest in Xfinity Series races at Richmond with seven victories. Kyle Busch has won the most poles (six) ever.

IMSA standout Katherine Legge will make her NASCAR oval debut driving the No. 15 JD Motorsports Chevrolet. She has two previous series starts at Mid-Ohio (30th place) and Road America (14th).

This race has been won from the pole position 14 times. Denny Hamlin was the last to do so in 2015.

Richmond Raceway Welcomes Xfinity Playoff Opener

For the first time ever, the Go Bowling 250 at Richmond Raceway will kick off the NASCAR Xfinity Series Playoffs on Friday, September 21st. All the action will be under the lights as the 12 Playoff drivers will take their first step in contending for the title on the historic 0.75-mile short track. Sparks will be flying, and tempers will be tested, much like earlier this season at Richmond, when Playoff contenders Cole Custer won the pole and Christopher Bell grabbed his first of four NASCAR Xfinity Series victories on the season.

Prior to Richmond Raceway being selected as the track to host the Playoff opener this season, Kentucky Speedway held the position hosting the first races of the 2016 and 2017 postseasons.

In 2016, the inaugural Playoffs opened at Kentucky and Elliott Sadler, then a Playoff contender took the checkered flag in impressive fashion. It was his only win of the Playoffs that season, and he ultimately went on to make the Championship 4 but finished runner-up in the final standings to Daniel Suarez.

Then last season, Tyler Reddick won the first race of the 2017 Playoffs at Kentucky Speedway. It was his first career Xfinity Series victory and he did it while on a part-time schedule driving for Chip Ganassi Racing, not eligible for the title.

Much like Kentucky, Richmond is one of many tracks on the schedule that any driver can win it. For example, in the last seven NASCAR Xfinity Series races at the famed short track, there have been seven different winners – Christopher Bell (spring 2018), Brad Keselowski (fall 2017), Kyle Larson (spring 2017), Kyle Busch (fall 2016), Dale Earnhardt Jr. (spring 2016), Chase Elliott (fall 2015) and Denny Hamlin (spring 2015). Could we see an eighth? Possibly, only two former winners included in the streak are entered in this event – Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Christopher Bell.

Top-Seeds: Justin Allgaier and Christopher Bell are Out Front Early

Being the top-seeds in the NASCAR Xfinity Series Playoffs can have its perks. For instance, both Playoff standings leader Justin Allgaier and second-place Christopher Bell are more than 20 Playoff points ahead of their nearest competition heading into this postseason opener at Richmond Raceway on Friday.

JR Motorsport’s Allgaier won the regular season championship last weekend at Las Vegas and now heads into the Playoffs as the No. 1 seed, seven points ahead of second-place Bell. This is Allgaier’s third consecutive season making the Playoffs. The veteran from Illinois completed the 2018 regular season with five wins, 15 top-fives, 21 top-tens and an average finish of 8.7.

“You got to keep racing these races the same way,” said Allgaier as he looks towards the Playoffs. “You got to go for wins, you got to go for stage wins. You got to get those bonus points because it is so challenging right now to keep the speed every week and execute.”

Joe Gibbs Racing’s Bell is right behind Allgaier in the standings and isn’t showing signs of letting up. Bell’s 2018 rookie season has been electrifying to say the least, as the Oklahoma native has captured four wins, 14 top-fives, 16 top-tens and an average finish of 10.7.

Expect both top-seeded drivers to continue their recent success this weekend at Richmond. Allgaier has made 15 series starts at the 0.75-mile short track, posting three top-fives, six top-tens and an average finish of 14.6. Plus, he finished eighth in the fall Richmond race last season. Despite all that, Allgaier may have his work cut out for him this weekend as Bell has taken to Richmond rather quickly. In two series starts, the Joe Gibbs Racing Sunoco rookie has posted one win (earlier this season), two top-tens and an average finish of 3.5.  

Best Of The Rest: Third To 12th In The Playoffs Are Separated By Just 11 Points

With their big points lead, a lot of the attention this opening weekend will be paid to the top-two seeds on the NASCAR Xfinity Series Playoff leaderboard, but let’s not forget the next 10 drivers (from third to 12th) are only separated by 11 points as the series heads to Richmond Raceway for the first race of the NASCAR Xfinity Series Playoffs. All a driver must do is win and they are automatically moving on to the next round making, these next three races crucial to the drivers in this tight Playoff points battle. Only eight of the 12 drivers will move on to the next round. 

Mid-Pack Attack: Feel safe to assume the NASCAR Xfinity Playoff standings will most likely shuffle following Richmond, as the series has five drivers currently all within one point of each other heading into the Playoff opener. 

Elliott Sadler (2,011 points – No. 1 JR Motorsports Chevrolet) is currently in third, 28-points back from his JRM teammate Justin Allgaier in the Playoff standings lead and only eight points ahead of ninth-place Matt Tifft, the first spot outside of the cutoff for the Round of 8. This is Sadler’s third consecutive season making the Playoffs (2016-2018). In 2018, he’s still looking for his first win but has accrued 13 top-fives, 21 top-tens and an average finish of 8.6 – best among Playoff contenders. The Emporia, Virginia, native has made 30 series starts at his home track (Richmond), posting six top-fives, 15 top-tens and an average finish of 13.2. He finished fifth in the 2017 fall Richmond race and third at the short track earlier this season. 

Cole Custer (2,011 points – No. 00 Stewart-Haas Racing Ford) is currently in fourth in the standings following Las Vegas, 28-points back from Justin Allgaier in the Playoff standings lead and only eight points ahead of ninth-place Matt Tifft, the first spot outside of the cutoff for the Round of 8. This is Custer’s second appearance in the postseason (2017, 2018). Custer’s sophomore season (2018) in the Xfinity Series has been notable posting 11 top-fives, 21 top-tens, and five poles. His average finish this season is a career-best 9.2. The California boy has made four series starts at Richmond, recording two top-tens and an average finish of 9.8; including winning the pole and finishing sixth earlier this season. 

Tyler Reddick (2,010 points – No. 9 JR Motorsports Chevrolet) is currently fifth in the standings in his Playoff debut, 29-points back from his JRM teammate Justin Allgaier in the standings lead and only seven points ahead of ninth-place Matt Tifft in the first spot outside of the cutoff for the next round. Reddick enters the postseason having posted one win (season opener at Daytona), four top-fives, 14 top-tens and an average finish of 14.7. Reddick has made just two starts at Richmond clutching his best finish earlier this season (11th).  

Ross Chastain (2,010 points – No. 42 Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet) is coming off his first career Xfinity Series win last weekend at Las Vegas and in doing so jumped to sixth in the Playoff standings, 29-points back from Justin Allgaier in the Playoff standings lead and just seven points ahead of ninth-place Matt Tifft. Chastain will be making his postseason debut and will be back in the No. 42 Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet this weekend with crew chief Mike Shiplett – the same car/team that won the fall Richmond race last season with driver Kyle Larson. In 26 starts this year, Chastain has collected one win, two top-fives, seven top-tens and an average finish of 15.8. Chastain is no stranger to Richmond; the Florida native has made seven series starts on the Virginian short track, putting together an average finish of 22.6. He finished 16th in the Richmond race earlier this season. 

Daniel Hemric (2,010 points – No. 21 Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet) is currently in seventh, 29-points back from Justin Allgaier in the Playoff standings lead, and only seven points ahead of ninth-place Matt Tifft. This is Hemric’s second consecutive postseason appearance (2017, 2018). Hemric finished the regular season with 12 top-fives, 16 top-tens, and two poles. His average finish is a 9.9. Heading into this weekend at Richmond, watch for Hemric to be a strong contender, in his three series starts at the short track he has tallied two top-fives and a pole. Plus, he finished fourth in the fall Richmond race last year. 

Back of the Standings: Brandon Jones currently sits in the eighth and final transfer spot; which has the challengers behind him feeling the pressure to run well in this first round as just eight drivers have the opportunity to move on to the Round of 8 in the next three races (Richmond, Charlotte Road Course, and Dover). 

Brandon Jones (2,006 points – No. 19 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota) is currently in the eighth and final Playoff transfer spot, 33-points back from Justin Allgaier in the Playoff standings lead and just three points ahead of RCR’s Matt Tifft in ninth – the first spot outside the cutoff. This is the second time in Jones’ career he has made the Playoffs (2016, 2018). Jones enters the postseason with two top-fives, 12 top-tens and an average finish of 13.7. The Georgia native, Jones, has made five starts at Richmond posting his best finish (tenth) at the 0.75-mile track earlier this season.    

Matt Tifft (2,003 points – No. 2 Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet) is currently in the ninth position in the standings – the first spot outside the Round of 8 cutoff, 36-points back from Justin Allgaier in the Playoff standings lead and just three points back from Brandon Jones in eighth. This is the second straight year Tifft has made the Playoffs, and the Ohio native heads into Richmond having gathered four top-fives, 13 top-tens and an average finish of 14.0 this season. Tifft has made four series starts at Richmond and in each one he has gotten progressively better, recording his career-best finish at the short track earlier this season (fourth).   

Ryan Truex (2,003 points – No. 11 Kaulig Racing Chevrolet) is making his NASCAR Xfinity Series Playoff debut in the tenth seed, 36-points back from Justin Allgaier in the Playoff standings lead and just three points back from Brandon Jones in eighth. Though this is the first time for Truex, it is the third consecutive season the No. 11 Kaulig Racing team has competed in the postseason. Truex finished 2018 with one top-five, ten top-tens and an average finish of 13.6. The New Jersey native, Truex, will need to win or move into the top-eight in the Playoff standings to move on to the Round of 8. Advantageously, he has made six series starts at Richmond, tallying one top-five and three top-tens; including a seventh-place finish earlier this season. 

Austin Cindric (2,001 points – No. 22 Team Penske Ford) makes his postseason debut as the 11th seed, 38-points back from Justin Allgaier in the Playoff standings lead and five points back from Brandon Jones in eighth, the final transfer spot for the Round of 8. Cindric’s Sunoco rookie campaign this season has had its ups and downs, but the youngster from North Carolina has finished the regular season with three top-fives, eight top-tens and an average finish of 18.7. Cindric made his series track debut at Richmond earlier this season; starting third and finishing fifth. Since 2010, the No. 22 Team Penske Ford team has won at Richmond four times; including this race last season. 

Ryan Reed (2,000 points – No. 16 Roush Fenway Racing Ford) enters his third consecutive career postseason in the 12th and final Playoff position, 39-points back from Justin Allgaier in the Playoff standings lead and six points back from Brandon Jones in eighth – the final transfer spot to the Round of 8. Reed finished the regular season with two top-fives, eight top-tens and an average finish of 16.5. Despite the statistically down year, Reed has reason to be optimistic heading into Richmond, the California native has made 11 series starts at the historic short track posting an average finish of 13.9; including a ninth-place finish earlier this season.

Below are the Xfinity Playoff standings heading into this weekend’s Go Bowling 250 at Richmond Raceway:

Rank Driver Points Leader Next From Cutoff Race Wins Playoff Pts

1

Justin Allgaier

2,039

0

0

36

5

39

2

Christopher Bell

2,032

-7

-7

29

4

32

3

Elliott Sadler

2,011

-28

-21

8

0

11

4

Cole Custer

2,011

-28

0

8

0

11

5

Tyler Reddick

2,010

-29

-1

7

1

10

6

Ross Chastain

2,010

-29

0

7

1

10

7

Daniel Hemric

2,010

-29

0

7

0

10

8

Brandon Jones

2,006

-33

-4

3

0

6

9

Matt Tifft

2,003

-36

-3

-3

0

3

10

Ryan Truex

2,003

-36

0

-3

0

3

11

Austin Cindric

2,001

-38

-2

-5

0

1

12

Ryan Reed

2,000

-39

-1

-6

0

0

 NBC Analyst and Former Xfinity Series Champion, Dale Earnhardt Jr., Returns to Racing

No big deal, it’s just the 15-time most popular Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series driver, two-time NASCAR Xfinity Series champion and on top-of all that, now a world-wide NBC Sports Network Analyst and TV show host Dale Earnhardt Jr. making his stock car racing return this weekend in the Go Bowling 250 at Richmond Raceway on Friday, September 21.

At the conclusion of the 2017 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series season, Hendrick Motorsport’s driver Dale Earnhardt Jr. decided to retire from full-time racing competition and instead pick up the headset and microphone in the NBC Sports booth and become a NASCAR TV analyst, to fans’ delight. Now for the first time since the 2017 championship finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway on November 19, Dale Earnhardt Jr. will climb back into a race car and compete in one of NASCAR’s national series.

Earnhardt will strap into the No. 88 JR Motorsports Chevrolet with crew chief Mike Bumgarner calling the shots from the pit box. Earnhardt has made seven series starts at Richmond Raceway, accumulating four wins (1998, 1999, 2002 and 2016), five top-fives, six top-tens and an average finish of 6.7. Surprisingly, Earnhardt’s last NASCAR national series win came at Richmond back in 2016.

Earnhardt’s Xfinity career has seen 139 starts, two titles (1998, 1999), 24 wins, 67 top-fives, 91 top-tens and ten poles.

Sports Car Star Katherine Legge to Make First Oval Xfinity Start

IMSA sports car star Katherine Legge will attempt to make her NASCAR Xfinity Series debut on an oval race track this weekend at Richmond Raceway. Legge’s previous stints in the series have all been on road courses, and this weekend the British competitor is looking to expand her resumé driving for JD Motorsports in the No. 15 Chevrolet on the historic 0.75-mile short track.

If Legge makes the Go Bowling 250 field, she will become just the ninth different female competitor to compete in the NASCAR Xfinity Series at Richmond Raceway; joining Diane Teel, Patty Moise, Johanna Long, Danica Patrick, Shawna Robinson, Alli Owens, Erin Crocker, and Tammy Jo Kirk. In addition, Legge would become the first female international competitor to compete in the series at Richmond, as she hails from Guilford, England.

This weekend will be Legge’s third series start. Her previous two were run at Mid-Ohio and Road America; where she finished 30th and 14th, respectively.

The best finish by a female competitor in the NASCAR Xfinity Series at Richmond Raceway is 15th and the record is held by three competitors – Johanna Long (2013), Patty Moise (1988) and Diane Teel (1982).

The all-time best finish by a female competitor in each NASCAR national series are: Monster Energy Series – Sara Christian’s fifth-place finish at Heidelberg in 1949; NASCAR Xfinity Series – Danica Patrick’s fourth-place finish at Las Vegas in 2011 and NASCAR Camping World Truck Series – Jennifer Jo Cobb’s sixth-place finish at Daytona in 2011.

Chip Ganassi Racing Grooming Some of the Sport’s Next Best

Facts are facts, and the fact is over the last three seasons no team has produced more first-time winners than Chip Ganassi Racing (CGR). This past weekend at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, Ross Chastain became the fourth new driver Chip Ganassi Racing has taken to Victory Lane in the NASCAR Xfinity Series; which is 33.3% of the series total (12) over the past three seasons (2016-2018). Chastain joins Alex Bowman (2017), Tyler Reddick (2017) and Justin Marks (2016) on CGR’s recent first-timers wins list.

Impressively, each driver has capitalized on their opportunity and successes with CGR, Alex Bowman was a part-time driver and now currently races for Hendrick Motorsports full-time and is in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Playoffs; Tyler Reddick was also running part-time before his first win and now is full-time with JR Motorsports contending for the title in the NASCAR Xfinity Series Playoffs and even Justin Marks continues to run part-time for Chip Ganassi Racing in the Xfinity Series and also competed in the 2018 Daytona 500 for Jay Robinson Racing finishing 12th.

Much like the aforementioned drivers, Ross Chastain’s recent success has parlayed into a much better seeding in the Xfinity Playoffs heading into this weekend at Richmond than had he not won. He would have been 12th, but instead, he is currently sixth in Playoff standings only 29-points back from the standings lead.

Chastain will be back in the No. 42 Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet this weekend at Richmond Raceway. Chastain has been dominant when behind the wheel of the No. 42 and under the tutelage of crew chief Mike Shiplett; in their two starts together Chastain has been out front for 78.2% of his laps completed, including bringing home the win in Vegas. If he were to win again this weekend, Chastain would guarantee himself a spot in the Playoff’s Round of 8.

Below are the 12 first-time NASCAR Xfinity Series winners over the last three seasons:

First-Time Winner Organization Season Track

1

Ross Chastain

Chip Ganassi Racing

2018

Las Vegas

2

Spencer Gallagher

GMS Racing

2018

Talladega

3

Cole Custer

Stewart-Haas Racing

2017

Homestead

4

Christopher Bell

Joe Gibbs Racing

2017

Kansas

5

Alex Bowman

Chip Ganassi Racing

2017

Charlotte

6

Tyler Reddick

Chip Ganassi Racing

2017

Kentucky

7

Jeremy Clements

Jeremy Clements Racing

2017

Road America

8

Ryan Preece

Joe Gibbs Racing

2017

Iowa

9

William Byron

JR Motorsports

2017

Iowa

10

Michael McDowell

Richard Childress Racing

2016

Road America

11

Justin Marks

Chip Ganassi Racing

2016

Mid-Ohio

12

Daniel Suarez

Joe Gibbs Racing

2016

Michigan

Also Noteworthy…

Richmond Raceway Fast Facts: The NASCAR Xfinity Series has held 69 races at Richmond, producing 37 different pole winners and 34 different race winners. … Kenny Wallace leads the series in series starts at Richmond with 36, Jeff Green leads all active drivers with 33. … Kyle Busch leads the series in Richmond poles with six and Kevin Harvick leads the series in Richmond wins with seven; neither are entered this weekend. … A total of 14 Xfinity Series races have been won from the pole or first starting position at Richmond; the most recent was Denny Hamlin in 2015.

First-Time Winners At RR: Richmond Raceway has been the home to six drivers’ first career NASCAR Xfinity Series wins – Robby Gordon (2004), Kyle Busch (2004), Jeff Purvis (1996), Bobby Hamilton (1989), Butch Lindley (1982) and Tommy Houston (1982).

Xfinity Series Debuts: Two drivers will be making their series debuts this weekend at Richmond, Conor Lane and Mason Diaz. Lane is from Port Richey, Florida, and has been competing in the ARCA Series part-time. He will attempt to make the Go Bowling 250 driving the No. 27 Chevrolet for his own team, Cody Lane Racing, with crew chief Timmy Silva on the pit box. Joining Lane in an attempt to make his series debut this weekend will be Mason Diaz out of Manassas, Virginia. Diaz will be driving the No. 90 DGM Racing Chevrolet with crew chief Adam Brenner calling the shots from pit road. Diaz has mainly cut his teeth running CARS Super Late Models but does have one NASCAR Camping World Truck Series start last season at Martinsville; he started ninth and finished 23rd.

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