Noah Gragson, who wasn’t even a lock in the Playoffs until two weeks ago when he won at Darlington Raceway, went back-to-back with another win over the weekend at Richmond Raceway.
The win marked the fourth of Gragson’s career and second of the 2021 season and his first at Richmond Raceway. As the series heads to Bristol Motor Speedway this weekend, Gragson has a lot of momentum on his side – especially after Bristol was home to his first win last season.
Justin Haley finished runner-up on Saturday afternoon at Richmond with John Hunter Nemechek finishing third, Justin Allgaier fourth and Riley Herbst fifth.
Friday’s Food City 300 will mark the regular season finale at Bristol Motor Speedway for the Xfinity Series and will kick off the 12-driver postseason beginning at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. The race will be at 7:30 p.m. ET on NBCSN, PRN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio.
AJ Allmendinger and Austin Cindric are fighting down to the final lap for the regular season championship title, which will be determined by the conclusion of Friday night’s race.
There are only three open spots left in the post-season field and those spots are currently occupied by Jeremy Clements, Brandon Jones and Riley Herbst. Michael Annett is the first driver outside of the Playoffs, 66 points behind Herbst. Ryan Sieg is behind Annett, 93 points out of the Playoffs.
The Xfinity Bristol race will be 159.9 miles and 300 laps with Stage 1 ending on Lap 85 and Stage 2 ending on Lap 170. Gragson will lead the field to green on Friday night with his JR Motorsports teammate Allgaier joining him on the front row.
Hindsight: Past Bristol Performances
The NASCAR Xfinity Series returns to Bristol Motor Speedway on Friday night for the Food City 300 (7:30 p.m. ET on NBCSN, PRN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio) for the first time this season.
There have been 77 races in Xfinity Series history at “The Last Great Coliseum” and 50 different race winners. There have also been 49 different pole winners. Erik Jones holds the records for the youngest pole winner (2015) and youngest winner (2016) and Harry Gant holds the record for the oldest pole winner (1994) and oldest race winner (1992).
Only 11 races in history have been won from the pole or first starting position and most recently, it was done by Kyle Busch in 2017.
Elliott Sadler holds the race record from 2012 at 94.74 mph and Kyle Larson holds the qualifying record from 2017 at 127.988 mph.
Last season, there were 36 cars in this race with 10 lead changes and five different winners. There were seven cautions for 45 laps and only 13 cars finished on the lead lap. Twenty-nine cars were running at the finish and the race winner only led 11 laps en route to victory. The margin of victory was 0.651 seconds.
The Xfinity Series competed at Bristol twice last season with Noah Gragson winning the first race in June and Chase Briscoe winning the second in September.
The smallest margin of victory in history was in 2011 at 0.019 seconds and the longest was 8.6 seconds in 1995.
Kyle Busch holds most of the records in the Xfinity Series at Bristol. He has the most poles (6), the most wins (9), the most top fives (17) and the most laps led (2,204). Jeff Green has run the most races at Bristol in Xfinity history with 29. Kevin Harvick holds the record for the most top 10s (24) and most lead lap finishes (26).
Justin Allgaier (2010), Bobby Labonte (1991) and Martin Truex Jr. (2004) all got their first career Xfinity Series victory at Bristol.
Harrison Burton has the highest driver rating (104.9) of any active driver heading to Bristol this weekend in fourth. Allgaier has the next highest (104.5) in sixth.
Battle for Xfinity Series Regular Season Championship ends in Bristol
It’s been a season-long battle between Team Penske’s Austin Cindric and Kaulig Racing’s AJ Allmendinger for the NASCAR Xfinity Series Regular Season Championship title. But it all comes down to this Friday under the lights at Bristol as the regular season comes to an end.
Cindric led the way for a majority of the season but Allmendinger’s winning ways pushed him to the top alongside Cindric. After a rough weekend at Daytona a few weeks ago, Allmendinger took the lead for the first time. The battle is on this weekend for the trophy and currently, Allmendinger would clinch the title with 55 points and Cindric would clinch the title with 59 points. Only one race is left for one of them to lock up the Regular Season Championship and the 15 additional Playoff points that go along with it.
Cindric is looking to make history as the first driver to win back-to-back Regular Season Championship titles. But Allmendinger winning the title would add his name to the list of winners in Xfinity Series history.
|Regular Season Champions|
Allmendinger has only one Xfinity Series start at Bristol, and it came last season. He started 27th and finished 10th in the No. 16 Kaulig Racing Chevrolet. Cindric has a bit more experience in a Xfinity car at Bristol with six starts under his belt. He has two top fives, three top 10s and has led 44 laps. Most recently, he finished third in this race in 2020.
Clinch Scenarios: Regular Season Finale, One Chance Left
With just one race remaining in the NASCAR Xfinity Series regular season, three Playoff positions are still up for grabs, as nine drivers have secured their spot in the NASCAR Xfinity Series postseason heading into this weekend’s regular season cutoff race at Bristol Motor Speedway.
The following nine drivers have clinched a spot in the 12-driver postseason field: AJ Allmendinger, Austin Cindric, Justin Allgaier, Daniel Hemric, Harrison Burton, Justin Haley, Noah Gragson, Jeb Burton, Myatt Snider.
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 ahead of the sixth 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, Jeremy Clements, Brandon Jones or Riley Herbst.
- Jeremy Clements: Would clinch regardless of finish
- Brandon Jones: Would clinch regardless of finish
- Riley Herbst: Would clinch regardless of finish
If there is a new winner from Ryan Sieg or another winless driver lower in the standings but still eligible to advance to the playoffs, the following drivers could clinch by being ahead of the 5th winless driver in the standings.
- Jeremy Clements: Would clinch with 47 points.
- Brandon Jones: Would clinch with 53 points.
- Riley Herbst: Would clinch with 55 points.
Can Clinch Via Win
The following drivers would clinch on their win alone: Jeremy Clements, Brandon Jones, Riley Herbst, Ryan Sieg, Brandon Brown.
The following drivers could clinch with a win and with help: Josh Williams (41 points), Alex Labbe (42 points), Tommy Joe Martins (43 points).
Can Clinch Regular Season Championship
Additionally, the Regular Season Championship could be clinched by the following drivers:
- AJ Allmendinger: Would clinch with 55 points
- Austin Cindric: Would clinch with 59 points
NASCAR Xfinity Series Playoffs Standings Post-Richmond-2:
|Rank||Driver||Points||Starts||Race Wins||Stage Wins||Playoff Pts||Pts From Cutoff|
|1||Austin Cindric||988||25||5||9||34||In On Wins|
|8||Daniel Hemric||849||25||0||6||6||Clinched on Points|
|9||Harrison Burton||840||25||0||2||2||Clinched on Points|
Noah Gragson’s back-to-back wins at Darlington and Richmond pushed him up in the standings to fourth. However, the rest of the Playoffs standings stayed the same heading into the final race of the regular season at Bristol.
Jeremy Clements, Brandon Jones and Riley Herbst are holding onto the final three Playoff transfer spots. Michael Annett is sitting in 13th, the first driver below the cutline, 66 points back. The points gap means that Annett needs to win in order to get into the Playoffs. The same goes for Ryan Sieg and Brandon Brown. It isn’t possible for them to clinch a spot-on points so they would need a victory.
Friday night’s race will mark Annett’s 18th start at Bristol Motor Speedway. He has seven top-10 finishes in those starts. His first start was in 2009 for Germain Racing and he started 21st and finished 20th. As a bubble driver with the only way into the post-season being a win, Annett will be pushing for a better result.
As far as the three drivers currently in the Playoffs, Clements, Jones and Herbst will need a good run under the lights at “The Last Great Coliseum.”
The Food City 300 will be Herbst’s third start at Bristol. He has one top 10 that came in this race last season. He started 20th and finished 10th for Joe Gibbs Racing.
Clements will make his 22nd Xfinity Series start at Bristol on Friday. He has one top five and three top 10s in those starts. Most recently, in 2020, he finished eighth and 11th in the two races run at Bristol.
Lastly, this will be Jones’ 12th Bristol start in the Xfinity Series. He has four top 10s and one top five and has led 136 laps total. Most recently, he finished third and eighth in the two races at the track in 2020.
Manufacturer Standings After Bristol
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.
With the winning ways continuing and Noah Gragson winning in the No. 9 JR Motorsports Chevrolet, the manufacturer’s points lead has grown.
Chevrolet now leads Toyota, 28 points ahead with 922 points. Toyota has 894 points and Ford has 830.
Owner Standings After Bristol
There are 11 spots locked in in the owner Playoff outlook heading into this weekend with the final spot being occupied currently by JR Motorsports with 660 points. They are 62 points above the cutline.
The No. 54 Toyota of Joe Gibbs Racing is holding onto first place in the owner standings with 1,010 points and nine race wins. The No. 54 isn’t eligible for the driver Playoffs as various drivers have piloted the Toyota.
However, they are able to run for the owner championship. Team Penske is in second with Kaulig Racing in third. JR Motorsports occupies both fourth and fifth in the owner standings.
Keeping An Eye On The Rookies
Ty Gibbs and Josh Berry have been the stars of the 2021 NASCAR Xfinity Series Sunoco 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 nine awards and 494 points, holding the lead on Berry in second place with 448 points and six awards. Both Gibbs and Berry competed last weekend at Richmond Raceway but only Gibbs is set to compete this weekend at Bristol Motor Speedway.
Gibbs has made 13 starts this season and has three wins, eight top fives, nine top 10s and one pole award.
Berry has run in 18 of 25 races this season and has one win, five top fives and 10 top 10s.
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.
Sheldon Creed moving up to Xfinity Series in 2022: The 2020 NASCAR Camping World Truck Series Champion, Sheldon Creed, will move up to Xfinity Series competition in 2022. He will join Richard Childress Racing’s Xfinity Series stable fulltime beginning at Daytona International Speedway to kick off the season. Creed, 24, is currently competing for GMS Racing in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series and is in a close battle already for the championship title. Additional details haven’t been announced yet but will be at a later date.
Allgaier returning to JRM in 2022: JR Motorsports and Justin Allgaier announced that the driver of the No. 7 Chevrolet will be back again for his seventh straight season with the team. Allgaier has racked up 13 victories in 190 starts so far in his Xfinity career with JR Motorsports, including two victories this season. Allgaier, 35, heads into this weekend’s regular season finale at Bristol with 11 Playoff points and pushing for more as the Xfinity Series Playoffs kick off at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. Allgaier has been a part of the Championship 4 in four out of the last five season and is currently in third in the championship standings. BRANDT will also continue its partnership with Allgaier and the No. 7. It will be the primary partner for Allgaier in 20 events during 2022 and will be places as an associate on the Chevrolet for the remaining races on the schedule.
Ty Dillon back with Our Motorsports at Bristol: Ty Dillon returns to Our Motorsports at Bristol Motor Speedway this weekend in the No. 23 with sponsorship from Hometown Lenders. Dillon, coming on back-to-back races filling in for Brett Moffitt in the No. 23, will pilot the Chevrolet in his fifth start for Our Motorsports in 2021. At Darlington, Dillon finished 13th and most recently, he finished 11th at Richmond. Dillon has 10 starts at Bristol in the series and has eight top 10s in those starts.