There are only three races remaining in the NASCAR Xfinity Series regular season and a lot can happen to shake up the standings. The series took on Daytona International Speedway last weekend, where superspeedway ace Justin Haley punched his ticket to the 2021 NASCAR Xfinity Series Playoffs with his first win of the season.
Daytona always produces exciting finishes and this one was no different as Haley won by .023 seconds over his fellow Kaulig Racing teammate AJ Allmendinger. Allmendinger took the white flag in front of the field but in a three-wide finish, it was 22-year-old Haley that was victorious.
With Haley’s win, all three of the Kaulig Racing Chevrolet’s have wins this season and are locked into the post-season.
The race was originally supposed to run under the lights on Friday evening, but rain postponed the event to Saturday, making it a doubleheader at Daytona. There were 17 lead changes and seven cautions for 29 laps. Allmendinger finished second, Justin Allgaier finished third, Jeb Burton fourth and Daniel Hemric rounded out the top five.
2020 NASCAR Xfinity Series champion Austin Cindric, who was leading the regular season points standings, was involved in a crash that left him with a 39th-place finish. After heading into the weekend with the lead in the driver standings, he is now 17 points behind Allmendinger.
This weekend, the series heads back to Darlington Raceway for the second time this season for the Sport Clips Haircuts VFW Help A Hero 200 at 3:30 p.m. ET on NBCSN, MRN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio (Channel 90). The race will be 200.1 miles and 147 laps with Stage 1 ending on Lap 45 and Stage 2 ending on Lap 90.
Hemric and the No. 18 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota will lead the field to green with Allmendinger joining him on the front row.
Facts & Figures: Darlington Edition
There have been 62 NASCAR Xfinity Series races at Darlington Raceway with 29 pole winners and 34 different race winners. The first-ever Xfinity Series race at the South Carolina track was in 1982 and won by Geoff Bodine.
Chase Elliott holds the record for the youngest winner at 18 years, four months, 14 days in 2014. Dick Trickle has held onto the record for the oldest race winner at 56 years, 10 months, nine days in 1998.
Only 15 races have been won from the pole or first starting position, most recently in 2017 by Denny Hamlin. Hamlin holds the race record at 141.355 mph in 2015. Carl Edwards holds the Xfinity Darlington qualifying record at 176.994 mph in 2008.
The series last hit the track at Darlington on May 8, 2021 and Justin Allgaier won the race and punched his ticket to the Playoffs. He started 16th and led 10 laps.
There were 13 lead changes and seven different leaders. There were nine cautions for 43 laps and only 28 cars finished on the lead lap. Thirty-four cars total were running at the finish.
Allgaier finished 0.422-seconds over runner-up Josh Berry. The largest Margin of Victory in history at Darlington was 13.959 seconds and the smallest Margin of Victory was 0.066 seconds in 1998.
Battle for Xfinity Series’ Regular Season Championship has heated up
With Team Penske’s Austin Cindric finishing 39th at Daytona last weekend, coupled with Kaulig Racing’s AJ Allmendinger nearly winning the race (finished runner-up) the pendulum in the NASCAR Xfinity Series driver standings lead has swung in Allmendinger’s direction putting him up 17 points with just three races remaining.
Prior to losing the NASCAR Xfinity Series driver standings lead last weekend at Daytona, Austin Cindric had held the No. 1 spot all season long. Cindric won the Regular Season Championship last season and is looking to become the first driver to win multiple regular season titles.
|Regular Season Champions|
AJ Allmendinger has been outstanding over the last seven races closing the points gap between Cindric and himself by more than 100 points; including three runner-up finishes and a win at Michigan in the last four races.
Allmendinger has just three races left in the regular season to hold on to the points lead become the fifth different driver to win the Regular Season Championship and collect the 15 additional Playoff points.
Allmendinger made his series track debut at Darlington earlier this season and started first and finished 13th. Cindric has made five starts at Darlington posting one top five and two top 10s. His best finish was fourth in 2020.
King of Darlington: Denny Hamlin returns to Xfinity Series this weekend
Denny Hamlin has always enjoyed running at Darlington Raceway and his numbers would prove why.
He will be back behind the wheel of a Xfinity Series car this weekend for the Sport Clips Haircuts VFW Help A Hero 200 on Saturday in the No. 54 for Joe Gibbs Racing.
Hamlin has 13 starts at Darlington in the series with five wins, 10 top fives, 12 top 10s and five poles. In every race that he started on the pole, he ended up winning. He competed in this race last season for JGR and started 37th and finished fifth. He has led 586 and has completed 100 percent of laps attempted. He has an average start of 11.4 and an average finish of 5.6.
In the Cup Series, Hamlin has 18 starts at Darlington with three wins, 10 top fives and 14 top 10s. He has an average start of 8.8 and an average finish of 7.4. He has led 598 laps. His most recent win was in June of 2020.
He will start 14th on Saturday, making his first Xfinity Series start of 2021.
Clinch Scenarios: Time is running out in the regular season
Four Playoff positions are still up for grabs, as eight drivers have secured their spot in the NASCAR Xfinity Series postseason heading into this weekend’s race at Darlington Raceway.
The following 7 drivers have clinched a spot in the 12-driver postseason field: AJ Allmendinger, Austin Cindric, Justin Allgaier, Daniel Hemric, Harrison Burton, Justin Haley, Jeb Burton.
Can Clinch via Points
If there is a repeat winner or a win by a driver who cannot advance to the Playoffs, the following drivers could clinch by being 111 points above the 5th winless driver in the standings. The same point requirements listed below would hold true if a new win comes from among Daniel Hemric, Harrison Burton or Brandon Jones.
- Noah Gragson: Would clinch with 11 points
If there is a new winner from Jeremy Clements or another winless driver lower in the standings but still eligible to advance to the Playoffs, the following drivers could clinch by being 111 points above the 4th winless driver in the standings.
- Noah Gragson: Would clinch with 20 points
Can Clinch via Previous Wins
The following drivers could clinch on previous wins:
Myatt Snider: Would clinch with 1 point
Can Clinch via Win
The following drivers would clinch on their win alone:
Noah Gragson, Brandon Jones, Jeremy Clements, Riley Herbst, Myatt Snider
The following drivers could clinch with a win:
Ryan Sieg and Brandon Brown: Could only clinch with help
NASCAR Xfinity Series Playoffs Standings Post-Daytona-2:
|Rank||Driver||Points||Starts||Race Wins||Stage Wins||Playoff Pts||Pts From Cutoff|
|1||Austin Cindric||908||23||5||9||34||In On Wins|
|7||Daniel Hemric||779||23||0||5||5||Clinched on Points|
|8||Harrison Burton||755||23||0||2||2||Clinched on Points|
AJ Allmendinger took over the points standings from Austin Cindric, who led the way most of the season, after his runner-up finish at Daytona International Speedway. Cindric finished 39th at Daytona after being involved in a wreck early in the race.
Joe Gibbs Racing teammates Daniel Hemric and Harrison Burton both clinched Playoff spots at Daytona on points so now there are only four spots left. Snyder has secured his spot on wins but needs to clinch on points in the top-20 and will do that this weekend by starting the race; he needs just one point. The final spot in the driver standings Playoff outlook is currently occupied by Riley Herbst and the first spot outside of the cutline is Michael Annett.
As we take a look at the Playoffs standings, with another win to their name, Chevrolet holds the lead for the manufacturer’s championship, too.
Chevrolet has nine wins and 842 points while Toyota also has nine wins but only 825 points, 17 points behind Chevrolet. Ford had five wins and 764 points.
Keeping an eye on the rookie class
Ty Gibbs and Josh Berry have been the stars of the 2021 NASCAR Xfinity Series rookie class. The two drivers, who have competed part-time in the series, have gone back and forth with the lead since the start of the season.
Currently, up-and-coming driver Ty Gibbs has eight awards and 447, holding the lead on Berry in second place with 435 points and six awards.
Gibbs has made 12 starts this season and has three wins, eight top fives, eight top 10s and one pole award and he isn’t entered to run this weekend at Darlington.
Berry has run in 17 of 24 races this season and has one win, five top fives and 10 top 10s. He is also not slated to run at Darlington on Saturday.
Ryan Vargas is in third in the rookie standings with four awards, Jade Buford is in fourth and Sam Mayer is in fifth. Every driver in the rookie standings has won at least one award throughout the season.
|Sunoco Rookie of the Year|
NASCAR Xfinity Series, Etc.
Noah Gragson returning to JRM in 2022: JR Motorsports announced that two-time winner Noah Gragson will be back with the team in 2022. The season will mark the fourth straight for Gragson and Bass Pro Shops, True Timber Camo and Black Rifle Coffee will also return with the No. 9 Chevrolet for the third straight season. Gragson has made 89 starts with JRM since 2019 and his first victory in the series came at Daytona International Speedway in 2020. In the same season, he won at Bristol Motor Speedway. He has 34 top fives, 61 top 10s and has made the Playoffs in all three seasons with the team. This season he earned eight top fives, 14 top 10s and won three of the four Xfinity Dash 4 Cash prizes earlier in the season.
Bacarella, Martins partnering in 2022: Caesar Bacarella and Tommy Joe Martins announced that they are partnering to form a new NASCAR Xfinity Series team beginning in 2022. The team will be called Alpha Prime Racing and they’ve already signed their first driver: Rajah Caruth, an ARCA Menards Series driver. Martins announced that he wouldn’t be competing full time in the No. 44 car for his family-owned Martins Motorsports team, opening up the seat to other drivers. Bacarella heard that news and decided that working with Martins to create a new team was something that could lead to success for both of them. Right now, the team is working on filling out their driver roster for 2022. Bacarella will run limited races while also competing in the Lamborghini Blancpain World Challenge America GT3 championship with TR3 Racing. Martins will run between 10-15 races for the team as well.