The NASCAR Xfinity Series season gets underway this weekend as well with the NASCAR Racing Experience 300. Formerly known as the PowerShares QQQ 300, the kickoff to the “junior circuit” for NASCAR usually features a few Cup Series guys that want to get another feel for the track at Daytona International Speedway and this year’s version is no different. As always when it comes to the Xfinity Series, there are plenty of driver and team changes to be aware of and also some new rules. Toyota will also be running the Supra instead of the Camry this year and Dodge will no longer be an Xfinity Series manufacturer. Ford will also be going with the Mustang instead of the Fusion. With that in mind, let’s take a look at the kickoff to the Xfinity Series season.
The More Things Change
Models and manufacturers are far from the only Xfinity Series changes this year. Races will now feature 38 cars instead of 40. Cars will now feature flange-fit composite bodies, which was tested last year, but is now mandatory for all races. The same post-inspection rules for the Cup Series will apply to the Xfinity Series. That means that the official race winner won’t be declared until 90-120 minutes after the race. The first and second-place teams will be inspected and so will one other randomly selected car. A lot of drivers that were part-time have now gone full-time, including Chase Briscoe, Noah Gragson, John Hunter Nemechek, Jeffrey Earnhardt, Matt Mills, Joey Gase, and Josh Bilicki. Elliott Sadler retired from full-time racing. Roush Fenway Racing and Chip Ganassi Racing will not be running Xfinity Series this season.
The Field and the Odds
As you can see from the odds on the right-hand side for desktop viewers and below the comment box for mobile viewers, Brad Keselowski and Chase Elliott are the Cup Series guys “dropping down” to participate in this race. Cup Series drivers and teams have to choose their spots wisely, as those guys are capped at seven races over the course of the 26 races prior to the playoffs. They also cannot run in the Dash 4 Cash events, which are at Bristol, Richmond, Talladega, and Dover from April 6 to May 4, with a week off for the Easter holiday. As we’ll often see with the Xfinity Series, Cup guys are listed at the top of the board. If there aren’t any Cup guys, we’ll see Justin Allgaier, Christopher Bell, and Cole Custer at the top. Most of the other drivers will be priced in the same general area. With a plate race here, we do see them bunched up a little more than usual.
Daytona Darts
I’ve long operated on the theory that plate races or other tight racing conditions favor the veterans. The guys with the savvy knowhow in terms of maneuvering in tight spots. Then you look at the winners. Sure, Tony Stewart won this race seven times from 2005-13, but the last four winners have been young drivers in Ryan Reed twice, Chase Elliott, and Tyler Reddick. Sometimes it’s just about being able to stay out of the crashes. Kyle Larson won the first stage and led the most laps last year, but finished 29th. Joey Logano, who usually runs well in plate races, was 34th. Austin Dillon, who won the Daytona 500, finished 32nd. Elliott won the second stage, but finished 12th. Larson actually won the second Xfinity race at Daytona and veteran Ryan Blaney finished fourth. Guys like Kaz Grala and Garrett Smithley had their only top-five finishes in this race last year. Grala was fifth at Daytona in the summertime. Smithley didn’t have another finish higher than 10th. Two-time winner Ryan Reed, who was formerly sponsored by Lilly Diabetes as a diabetic driver, is not running Xfinity Series races because his sponsor left the team. That means that this race really is wide-open.
Major Manufacturers
In this race, equipment doesn’t matter quite as much, because drivers just mash the gas to the floor and go from there. With Chip Ganassi Racing and Roush Fenway Racing both out of the equation, you’ll have to really consider the teams for these drivers. Austin Cindric is the only full-time driver for Penske. Joe Gibbs Racing still has a lot of guys, including Brandon Jones and Christopher Bell. Stewart-Haas Racing has Cole Custer and Chase Briscoe. JR Motorsports will run out Justin Allgaier, Michael Annett, Ryan Preece, Zane Smith, Ryan Truex, Noah Gragson, and Dale Earnhardt Jr. for his cameo appearance. Because of the nature of this race, there aren’t a ton of great betting opportunities, but we can plant some seeds for the future. It is really hard for smaller teams to win at any level of racing and the Xfinity Series is no different.
Picks
Keep it real simple with this race. This is a beer money race. Not even like craft/microbrew. This is like that tallboy that you can get for $1.50 at the gas station. I’ll go with Christopher Bell at +1100. He was third at Daytona and ran well on smaller tracks like Richmond and Dover. He seems to like the tight racing on ovals. The long shot prices aren’t all that great across the board, as all but three lines drivers are +1300 or lower. Even matchups are a dicey proposition here. Throw one dart with Bell and save the other two after qualifying to see who might get a head start and stay above the fray.