NASCAR Xfinity Series Whelen Trusted to Perform 200 at Phoenix Preview

NASCAR Xfinity Series teams are ready for the Whelen Trusted to Perform 200 at ISM Raceway, on Saturday, November 10th at 3:30 pm ET. Pre-race coverage begins at 3 pm ET on NBC, MRN, and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio. 

Racing 200 miles on the one-mile oval, the first two stages are 45 laps each with the last stage ending on lap 200.

What to Watch For:

  • Cole Custer’s win last week at Texas makes him the only Xfinity Playoff driver with an automatic ticket to the Homestead-Miami Speedway championship next week.
  • Points leader Tyler Reddick holds an eight-point edge on fourth place Daniel Hemric, who is 12 points up on regular season champion Justin Allgaier and 14 points up on Matt Tifft.
  • William Byron won this Phoenix Playoff race last season and went on to capture the series championship the next week.
  • During the Playoff portion of the schedule, Hemric has led all the playoff contenders in average finish (6.4) and laps led (232). His average finish at Phoenix of 6.0 is best among Playoff drivers with more than two starts at the track.
  • Six-time winner Christopher Bell is averaging a 4.0 finish in his two starts. He is in a “must win” situation, trailing Hemric by 34 points.
  • Bell has the most Playoff wins among the Playoff drivers – he won at Richmond, Va. and Dover, Del.
  • The season’s two winningest drivers – five-time winner Allgaier and six-time winner Bell – both sit outside the top-four heading into the weekend’s title-setting race.
  • Four drivers are averaging a finish of tenth or better at ISM Raceway – Bell (4.0), Hemric (6.0), Allgaier (7.8) and Tifft (10.0).
  • Allgaier has the best driving rating (103.8) at Phoenix among drivers with at least three starts. He has led the most laps at the track (180) of any driver in the field this weekend. Sadler is next with 29 laps out front.
  • Allgaier (2017) and Sadler (2012) are the only previous winners in this week’s race.
  • Reddick holds a 42-point advantage over Bell in the Rookie of the Year standings. Austin Cindric is third 69 points back.
  • Kyle Busch has the most wins (ten) in this race.
  • Cup driver Brad Keselowski is the most recent Phoenix winner, taking the trophy this March.

Update from the Track:

Fourth-generation driver Jeffrey Earnhardt announced via Twitter on Saturday morning that he has a nine-race NASCAR Xfinity Series deal to drive the No. 18 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota next season. Earnhardt, the grandson of seven-time Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series champion Dale Earnhardt, will make his debut in the car in February at Daytona. Xtreme Concepts Inc., a company specializing in security solutions, will be his sponsor.

“I’ve worked incredibly hard for this opportunity and I’ve got to thank Xtreme Concepts for making it happen,” Earnhardt said. “You see the level of expertise Joe Gibbs Racing has and the caliber of equipment they bring to the race track every week. As a driver, it’s exactly where you want to be. It’s the best opportunity I’ve had in my career, and I plan to make the most of it.”

Only Thing Certain Is Just Four Playoff Contenders Will Advance After ISM Raceway

When the checkered flag soars at the conclusion of the Whelen Trusted To Perform 200 at ISM Raceway this Saturday, four drivers will advance to the final round of the NASCAR Xfinity Series Playoffs to compete for the title at Homestead-Miami Speedway on November 17.

Following the wild finish last weekend at Texas Motor Speedway, Stewart-Haas Racing’s Cole Custer has locked himself into the Championship 4, leaving three spots up for grabs this weekend in Phoenix, Arizona.

It will be the third consecutive season ISM Raceway has hosted the lead-in event to the championship finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway. Since the inception of the elimination-style Playoffs in the NASCAR Xfinity Series, ISM Raceway has produced some great action leading into the Championship 4.

In 2016, the Xfinity Series Playoff race at ISM Raceway was won by Joe Gibbs Racing’s Kyle Busch. The highest finishing NASCAR Xfinity Series Playoff driver was Justin Allgaier (fourth). Allgaier entered the ISM Raceway event fifth in the Playoff standings and raced his way into the Championship 4, knocking Blake Koch from the top four in points. Daniel Suarez won the series title in 2016 and finished right behind Allgaier (fourth) at ISM Raceway in fifth. The four drivers to make the Championship 4 in 2016 were Erik Jones, Elliott Sadler, Daniel Suarez, and Justin Allgaier.

Last season’s Xfinity Series Playoff race at ISM Raceway was won by Playoff contender and JR Motorsport’s rookie William Byron. Byron’s win guaranteed himself a spot in the Championship 4, from which he ultimately won the title that season. The second-highest finishing NASCAR Xfinity Series Playoff driver was Daniel Hemric (fifth). Hemric entered the event at ISM Raceway seventh in the Playoff standings and his fifth-place finish was enough to move him into the fourth and final spot in the Championship 4, bumping Brennan Poole from the top four in points. Hemric went on to finish the season runner-up in the Playoff standings. The four drivers to make the Championship 4 in 2017 were William Byron, Elliott Sadler, Justin Allgaier, and Daniel Hemric.

Below is a chart focusing on the 2018 Championship 4 outlook as the series heads to ISM Raceway this weekend to decide the final three spots:

Cole Custer Becomes The First To Lock Himself Into The Championship 4

With the enormous pressure to advance in the Playoffs, Stewart-Haas Racing’s Cole Custer drove a masterful last lap to steal the win from fellow NASCAR Xfinity Series Playoff contender and JR Motorsports driver Tyler Reddick last weekend at Texas Motor Speedway to secure his spot in the Championship 4 and a chance at the 2018 series title.

Custer entered the Texas race last weekend seventh in the Playoff standings; 23 points behind fourth-place Christopher Bell in the final transfer spot for the Championship 4. But Custer needed a win, and he delivered. With his victory, Custer has guaranteed himself a chance at the title this season, and for the first time in his career made the Championship 4. The California kid has been stellar in the Playoffs, amassing one win, two top-fives, three top-tens and an average finish of 10.2.

Now with the ticket to the championship finale in hand, Custer and the No. 00 SHR Ford Mustang team, led by crew chief Jeff Meendering, can turn their attention to preparing for the finale at Homestead-Miami, but first, they must get through this weekend at ISM Raceway. Custer has made three series starts at ISM Raceway, posting two top-tens.

On a macro level, Custer’s sophomore season has been an edifice of success, and has already surpassed his impressive rookie campaign last year. Through 31 races this season, Custer has collected one win (Texas-2), 13 top-fives, 24 top-tens and an average finish of 9.3.

Standings Leader Tyler Reddick Looks To Make Championship 4 In His Rookie Season

JR Motorsport’s Tyler Reddick finished runner-up at Texas last weekend and sailed into the NASCAR Xfinity Series Playoff points standings lead as the series heads to the Round of 8 elimination race at ISM Raceway this weekend for the Whelen Trusted To Perform 200.

With just one race left to make the Championship 4, Reddick has placed himself in the best possible scenario aside from winning his way into the final round. The California native is the current points standings leader with a 20-point cushion over his JR Motorsports teammate Justin Allgaier in the first spot outside the Championship 4 cutoff.

Reddick’s performance in the Playoff’s has been championship caliber, posting two top-fives, four top-tens and the second-best average finish among Playoff contenders with a 7.4.

Heading to ISM Raceway this weekend, Reddick will look to continue his postseason success on the newly renovated one-mile raceway where he has accrued one top-ten and an average finish of 12.0. Reddick can clinch on points this weekend with 46 points and a new winner. If there is a repeat winner (or a win by Elliott Sadler or Daniel Hemric), then Reddick could clinch with 35 points. He could also clinch a Championship 4 spot with a win this weekend.

If Tyler Reddick were to make the Championship 4 this season, he would become just the fourth Sunoco Rookie of the Year candidate to make the final round and have a shot at the title – William Byron and Daniel Hemric accomplished the feat in 2017 and Erik Jones made the final four as a rookie in 2016. Twice a Sunoco rookie has won the series title – William Byron (2017) and Chase Elliott (2014).

Veteran Elliott Sadler Embraces Last Chance At A NASCAR Title

Since making the announcement earlier this year that he will hang up his fulltime driving gloves at season’s end, JR Motorsport’s veteran Elliott Sadler has positioned himself nicely to ride off into the sunset in Miami. The Virginia native currently holds the third transfer spot in the Playoff standings with a 13-point lead over his JR Motorsports teammate Justin Allgaier in the first spot outside the Championship 4 cutoff.

Sadler is no stranger to the Playoff’s Championship 4, as he has qualified for the final round the last two seasons. This year, while still looking for his first win of the season, he has been able to make headway in the points by staying out of trouble. In the postseason, Sadler has produced one top-five and three top-tens. Plus, his average finish of 8.4 during the Playoffs has been fourth-best among Playoff challengers.

With his Playoff hopes on the line Sadler heads to ISM Raceway this weekend knowing his veteran experience will pay dividends. He has 19 series starts at the one-mile raceway amassing one win (2012), five top-fives, ten top-tens and an average finish of 11.9. Sadler could clinch on points with 54 points and a new winner. If there is a repeat winner (or a win by Tyler Reddick or Daniel Hemric), then he could clinch with 43 points. He could also move onto the next round with a win.

Hot Seat: RCR’s Daniel Hemric Will Try To Hold On To The Final Playoff Transfer Spot   

If you just looked at the boxscore over the last five Playoff races, no one has out-performed Richard Childress Racing’s Daniel Hemric. But following a post-race penalty at Kansas and top-ten finish at Texas, the 27-year-old finds himself in the fourth and final transfer spot to the NASCAR Xfinity Series Playoff’s Championship 4 with just one race left to decide who is moving on.

Hemric will have his work cut out for him this weekend at ISM Raceway as the North Carolina native is only 12 points ahead of Justin Allgaier in the first spot outside the Championship 4 cutoff.

During the Playoffs this season Hemric has been lights out, as he leads all other Playoff contenders in average finish (6.4), laps led (232) and driver rating (122.9). Plus, he is the only driver to finish in the top-ten in all five of the Playoff races this season.

Don’t be surprised if Hemric makes it hard on the drivers south of the Championship 4 cutoff, as the RCR standout has made three starts at ISM Raceway posting an average finish of 6.0. Hemric could clinch on points with 55 points and a new winner. If there is a repeat winner (or a win by Tyler Reddick or Elliott Sadler), then he could clinch with 44 points. A win would also move Hemric on to the next round.

Outside Looking In: Allgaier, Tifft Still Within Striking Distance Of Championship 4

Two drivers just outside the NASCAR Xfinity Series Playoff’s Championship 4 cutoff, JR Motorsport’s Justin Allgaier (fifth) and Richard Childress Racing’s Matt Tifft (sixth), have just one race left to breathe life back into their championship runs. Currently, Allgaier is fifth in the Playoff standings, 12 points back from fourth-place Daniel Hemric and Tifft is sixth in the points, 14 markers back from Hemric.

Justin Allgaier’s Playoffs have been disastrous in comparison to his regular season. The Illinois native entered the Playoffs as the regular season champion, having put up five wins with an average finish of 8.7. But since the postseason has started (last five races) he has managed just two top-fives and an average finish of 18.6 – a difference of approximately ten positions compared to the regular season.

Allgaier has made 16 series starts at ISM Raceway, posting one win (2017), six top-fives, 11 top-tens and an average finish of 7.8. Allgaier’s best bet to move on to the Championship 4 for the third consecutive season would be a win this weekend at ISM Raceway, but he could clinch on points with help.

Matt Tifft’s Playoff performance has been better than his regular season efforts, but his lack of Playoff points entering the postseason has him behind the cutoff heading into the Round of 8 elimination race at ISM Raceway. Tifft has scored four top-tens in his five Playoff starts this season and has posted an average finish of 7.8 – third-best among title contenders.

Expect Tifft to challenge for a spot in the Championship 4 this weekend as the Ohio native has made three starts at the one-mile track posting an average finish of 10.0. Tifft can guarantee his bid in the Championship 4 with a win this weekend but he could also clinch on points with some help.

Must Win Situation For Joe Gibbs Racing’s Bell and Team Penske’s Cindric

It all comes down to this. No second chances. All of the hard work, blood, sweat and tears have culminated to this point and both Joe Gibbs Racing’s Christopher Bell and Team Penske’s Austin Cindric will have to put it all on the line to keep their championship hopes alive this weekend in the Whelen Trusted To Perform 200 at ISM Raceway.

JGR’s Christopher Bell is currently seventh in the series Playoff standings, a whopping 34 points back from Daniel Hemric in the fourth and final Championship 4 transfer spot. While Bell is still mathematically eligible to point his way into the next round, it is highly unlikely all the drivers ahead of him in the points would have that much of a collapse in this weekend’s elimination race, making a victory the most viable option for Bell to move on.

Winning in the Playoffs this season has come easy for Bell, the Sunoco Rookie of the Year candidate has six wins on the year and two of those came during the postseason (Richmond, Dover). The Oklahoma native has been stellar at ISM Raceway, in his two starts at the track he has collected two top-fives and an average finish of 4.0.

Last, but not least, is Team Penske’s Austin Cindric, who by virtue of too few Playoff points when entering the postseason and being caught in a multiple car incident in the Round of 8 opener at Kansas, finds himself hitting rock bottom in the Playoff standings (eighth) heading into this weekend’s elimination race. With nowhere to go but up, Cindric will have to muster a win this weekend at ISM Raceway as the North Carolina native is 61 points back from fourth-place Daniel Hemric in the final Championship 4 transfer spot – mathematically ineligible to move on by points.

Cindric’s performance in the postseason hasn’t been all bad though, he has posted two top-fives and three top-tens in the five Playoff races this season, including a third-place finish last weekend at Texas.

Cindric made his series track debut at ISM Raceway earlier this season, he started 13th and finished 16th.

2018 Playoff Contender Performances

Below is a look at the NASCAR Xfinity Series current eight Playoff contenders and how they have performed in the postseason (the last five races) thus far:

2018 Playoff Contender Career Performances At ISM Raceway

Below is a look at the NASCAR Xfinity Series current eight Playoff contenders and how they have performed ISM Raceway:

Justin Allgaier (2017) and Elliott Sadler (2012) are the only two drivers entered this weekend at ISM Raceway that are former winners at the track.

Also Noteworthy…

Sunoco Rookie Race Could Be Decided In Phoenix – With the introduction of mirroring the Sunoco Rookie of the Year points system to the NASCAR Xfinity Series driver championship standings this season, the battle for the 2018 Sunoco Rookie of the Year honors could be decided this weekend. Currently, JR Motorsport’s driver Tyler Reddick holds the rookie standings lead by 42 points over second place Christopher Bell and 69 points ahead of third place Austin Cindric. If only one of the three advances to the Championship 4, not only will they have a shot at the series title when they get to Homestead, but they will have also locked up the rookie of the year honors for 2018. If more than one rookie or none of the rookies advance to the Championship 4, the battle will go on to Homestead-Miami.  

Xfinity Owner Points Outlook With Two To Go – John Hunter Nemechek’s win at Kansas to open the NASCAR Xfinity Series Playoff’s Round of 8 locked the current owner points leader, the No. 42 Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet team, into the season finale title shot. Then last weekend’s big win by Cole Custer at Texas also guaranteed the No. 00 Stewart-Haas Racing Ford team their ticket to the owner standings Championship 4, leaving just two spots up for grabs heading into this weekend’s elimination race at ISM Raceway. Currently holding those two positions are the No. 1 JR Motorsports Chevrolet team (+8 from the cutoff) and the No. 21 Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet team (+7 from the cutoff). Team Penske’s No. 22 Ford team currently sits in the first spot outside the owner standings Championship 4.

ISM Raceway Xfinity Series Quick Facts – The series has hosted 33 races at ISM Raceway; two of which have been Playoff races. The 33 events have produced 17 different pole winners, led by Kyle Busch with nine poles and 17 different race winners also led by Kyle Busch with 10 victories. Kevin Harvick has participated in 23 of the 33 races and leads the Xfinity Series in top-fives (17) and top-tens (19). Justin Allgaier leads the series in the most starts with 16 with the fewest DNFs (0) at ISM Raceway.

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