As expected, it was a crazy opening to the Xfinity Series season with the NASCAR Racing Experience 300. Fortunately, the NASCAR Racing Experience is a lot more than just plate races. This week, the drivers get back to standard conditions on the 1.54-mile loop at Atlanta Motor Speedway in Hampton, Georgia. We’ve already taken a look at the Folds of Honor QuikTrip 500 and are now focusing our energies on the Rinnai 250, which is the second race of the Xfinity Series season. This is the circuit’s one and only stop in Hampton, Georgia and the last time east of the Mississippi until early April at Bristol. Odds come from BetOnline Sportsbook this week and can be seen on the right-hand side for desktop viewers and below the comment box for mobile viewers. Let’s take a look at the Rinnai 250.
Standings Update
Michael Annett has punched a ticket to the Xfinity Series playoffs with his win at Daytona in the season opener. He also led the most laps, but the 32-year-old, who secured his first ever NASCAR win, is still third in the standings because he managed only two stage points. Brandon Jones finished third and was second in stage points with 15, so he is first in the overall standings with 49. Ross Chastain, who finished 13th, but won the second stage, is second with 42. After Annett, Austin Cindric and Justin Allgaier are fourth and fifth. Surprisingly, there are no Cup Series guys in the race this week. Last week, Chase Elliott finished 10th and Brad Keselowski finished 37th, as both guys squandered one of their seven Xfinity Series starts.
Opportunity Presents Itself
Dating back to 2009, the winners in the Rinnai 250 are Kevin Harvick (5), Kyle Busch (2), Ricky Stenhouse Jr., Carl Edwards, and Jamie McMurray. With no Cup Series drivers in this year’s event, this is a monumental opportunity for the Xfinity Series guys to make something special happen. NASCAR does seem to be in a bit of a strange place with the Xfinity Series. Attendance figures are subpar, so the idea of limiting Cup Series participants won’t help put butts in seats. On the other hand, the drivers in the sport’s top “minor league”, so to speak, really deserve a fair shake. It is a very fine line to walk and the sport’s governing body has tried things like the Dash 4 Cash events and other restrictions for Cup Series guys. In any event, that’s a conversation for another day, but a lack of Cup driver participation means that the race is wide open.
For Whom The Bell Tolls
In a traditional race without Cup Series drivers, it will be Christopher Bell’s race to lose via the oddsmakers. Bell is +275 this week. Bell owns eight career Xfinity Series wins, seven of which came last season. He was third in this race. Overall last year, Bell actually finished fourth in points because of the trouble he ran into at Kansas and Texas late in the year, but he was consistently the best points-eligible driver. Veteran Justin Allgaier is second on the board at +400. Cole Custer and Ryan Preece are both +500. This is about what we can expect going forward. The Xfinity Series odds can be pretty boilerplate when Cup guys aren’t in the field. Bell was third, Custer was 39th, Allgaier was sixth, and Preece was not in this race last year. Last year’s race, however, featured winner Kevin Harvick and fellow Cup drivers Joey Logano and Ty Dillon. Logano finished second. Back in 2017, Elliott Sadler, who retired prior to this season, was the only points-eligible driver to finish in the top five. He joined Kyle Busch, Kyle Larson, Brad Keselowski, and Kevin Harvick.
Other Hopefuls
John Hunter Nemechek had a strong run here last year and finished fourth. It was one of six top-five finishes for JHN. He won at Kansas during the Xfinity Series playoffs, which he did not qualify for as a part-time racer. Nemechek is a guy that you may want to bet early. If he gets a win or two now that he’s a full-time driver, he’ll be dropped into that 4/1 or 5/1 range shortly after that first trip to the winner’s circle. With some new drivers in races that feature a limited number of Cup drivers, you want to take some shots like this because those guys will see rapid price adjustments. Ironically, we’ve already seen the one for Preece, who won at Bristol last year and had seven top-five finishes in his starts. We’ve also seen it already for Noah Gragson, who had two top-five finishes last season. Nemechek hasn’t gotten that adjustment yet, which means that the gettin’ is still good.
With that in mind, Nemechek is the top pick for this weekend. Sophomore Austin Cindric is also a good bet at +2000. Cindric was seventh here last year and finished with four top-fives in his last six races last year. He really got it going and got a lot more confidence on ovals with those finishes to end the season.