Three drivers ‘made their names’ in the NASCAR Xfinity Series over the last couple of years. Tyler Reddick, Christopher Bell, and Cole Custer each earned their place in the ‘Big Three’ of the series last year. On their way to collectively winning 21 of 33 races (64%), these three drivers took a meteoric rise to the top. Reddick went on to claim the championship for the second year in a row and now, the ‘Big Three’ are moving up to the NASCAR Cup Series as part of the rookie class in the premier series. That leaves the question of who fills the role of being next in the ‘Series where Names are Made?’
For many, the common answer is Justin Allgaier, Chase Briscoe, and Austin Cindric. These drivers finished the season right behind the departing drivers, fourth, fifth and sixth respectively in the point standings. Briscoe won at Las Vegas and now leads the series points battle just two races into the season. Meanwhile, Cindric sits sixth and Allgaier ninth. While a strong case can be made for these three, there are other drivers already making their statements for this season on the track.
The No. 9 JR Motorsports driver was consistently in the top-ten in 2019 and finished eighth in points. Many feel Gragson is more mature with more focus this season. And that is already showing by winning the season opener at Daytona for his first career win in the series. In the next race of the season, Gragson earned a fourth-place at Las Vegas. Those results put him second in the point standings behind the leader Chase Briscoe.
Brandon Jones is the veteran of the Joe Gibbs Racing stable in the No. 19, and he is poised for a breakout year. He was eighth in points last year, picking up a win, six top-fives, and 16 top-tens. This year he needs to improve on his 14.6 average finishing position. Put a checkmark by that. So far, Jones was fourth and sixth in the two races this season and currently fifth in points
As a rookie with Kaulig Racing in the No. 11, Haley knocked out four top-fives and 20 top-tens while also winning at Daytona in a Cup Series race. He has finished sixth and 12th thus far, settling at eighth in the points.
A 2020 Sunoco Rookie of the Year contender in No. 20 Joe Gibbs Racing machine made his statement already last season. In only nine starts, he compiled one top-five and five top-tens. He backed those stats with a runner-up and fifth-place finish already this year. Burton is third in points only behind the two race winners of the season.
Joe Gibbs Racing has no problem developing rookies and the driver of the No. 18 is no different again this year. In nine starts in 2019, Herbst has three top-ten finishes but carried a 16.9 average finish. With a 32nd-place finish at Daytona and a tenth at Las Vegas, that trend continues. The trend of JGR rookies showing improvement will follow and he should move up from 16th in the point standings
Chastain has the most diverse portfolio as a wheelman of the No. 10 Kaulig Racing team. Even after switching over to run for the NASCAR Truck Championship partway into the season, Chastain still made 19 starts. He won once while also collecting two top-fives and five top-tens. He’s 11th in the point standings this year after not qualifying for Daytona. However, Chastain raced in someone else’s car finishing 22nd. His tenth-place at Las Vegas is more indicative of what to expect on the year
Always an underdog, we could see some serious bite out of the driver of the No. 39 this year. With his family-owned team, Sieg has managed two top-fives and 12 top-tens last season. Those results top off a career year allowing him to finish 11th in the point standings. In two races, he already has half of his 2019 top-fives covered after a third-place at Las Vegas. Sieg is ranked seventh in points with his ninth-place showing at Daytona, and going two-for-two in the top-ten.
This year we may not see a ‘Big Three’ in the NASCAR Xfinity Series. This list may simply make ten names to put in the 12 driver championship playoffs. But, what will happen again this season, is that ‘names are made’ here.