Last Updated: 2017-08-09
The Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series makes two stops at Michigan International Speedway. The Xfinity Series does not. Instead, the Xfinity Series will be at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course for the Mid-Ohio Challenge. This is a race that started in 2013 and represents the only race on the 2.258-mile track to be organized by NASCAR. There are 75 laps in this race, which used to be known as the Nationwide Children’s Hospital 200. Last season, this race was run as the Mid-Ohio 200.
Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course is in Lexington, Ohio, which is about an hour and a half southwest of Cleveland and 40 minutes northeast of Columbus. There are 13 turns on this track and it is the kind of race that brings out a lot of road course ringers. The NASCAR drivers are in Michigan for the Pure Michigan 400, so that means a wide-open field for this Xfinity Series race. This is the 21st race of the 26-race regular season. When the Cup Series starts its playoffs at Chicagoland on September 17, the Xfinity Series will wrap up its regular season. This is the second road course race in a row and the second of three out of four races in the month of August.
This represents a big chance for the Xfinity Series drivers. Only four of them have wins this season. William Byron has three wins. Justin Allgaier, Ryan Reed, and Ryan Preece all have one each. Preece, however, won’t run any more Xfinity Series races since he was only contracted for two and finished second and first in those races. Unlike the Cup Series, where wins are a determining factor for playoff spots, the top 12 in points will make it into the Xfinity Series playoffs.
Elliott Sadler, William Byron, Justin Allgaier, Brennan Poole, Daniel Hemric, Cole Custer, Matt Tifft, Ryan Reed, Dakoda Armstrong, Blake Koch, Michael Annett, and Brendan Gaughan all look pretty safe right now. Gaughan is 12th in points with a 36-point edge over Ryan Sieg. JJ Yeley is 43 points out of the playoffs. It doesn’t look like there will be a whole lot of drama as far as the playoffs go, but two of the next three races represent chances for Xfinity Series guys to get wins without the Cup Series drivers in play.
Sam Hornish Jr. is a big favorite this week at +225 per the oddsmakers at 5Dimes Sportsbook. Hornish makes a few appearances each year. The Defiance, Ohio native would love to grab one in his home state. He had the pole and finished second in this race last year. He had the pole in 2014 and finished 30th. He was third in 2013 when this event became a regular stop. Hornish has two Xfinity Series starts this season with Team Penske and has finished 37th and 34th in those races. Last season, Hornish had a win for Joe Gibbs Racing at Iowa and a sixth, second, and fourth for Richard Childress Racing.
Justin Marks is the second favorite at +450. Marks won this race last season for Chip Ganassi Racing. This is his first start of the Xfinity Series season. Last year, he ran 17 times in the #42 car and didn’t finish any better than 11th, except for that win at Mid-Ohio. That included a road course event at Road America. He was sixth in this race back in 2014. It seems like last year’s win has really skewed his price point, considering he has had very little success otherwise at the Xfinity Series level. He’s probably a guy to stay away from this week.
JD Davison fits the bill as one of those “road course ringers” mentioned in the intro. Davison made one start last year and finished 19th at Road America. He’s largely known in the motorsports world as an open-wheel racer, with most of his recent events in the Pirelli World Challenge and in the WeatherTech SportsCar Championship Series. The 30-year-old, who is better known as James Davison, is contracted by Joe Gibbs Racing now, so he should have a better car this weekend than he had last year for King Autosport in that race in Wisconsin. He’s a sneaky pick, but the price at +650 clearly incorporates his open-wheel background.
Justin Allgaier is also +650 this week. Allgaier had the best finish, by far, among points-eligible drivers last week at Watkins Glen. He was fourth. Brendan Gaughan was next in ninth. Allgaier was fifth last year in this race and eighth the previous year. He won on the road course in Quebec back in 2012 and that was his most recent Xfinity Series win up until he snagged one at Phoenix earlier this season. Allgaier was sixth at Road America last year and seventh at Watkins Glen. He’s a decent bet this week given his past runs at road courses.
Prices are pretty spread out because a lot of wrecks happen and other things on the road courses. Regan Smith is a past winner at +700. He won this race two years ago. This will be his first Xfinity Series start of the year. He was second at mid-Ohio in 2014, so he’s another decent bet. Elliott Sadler is +850 alongside William Byron. The field is +1150.
Overall, this is a pretty tough race to cap. Last year’s race was plagued by rain, so an asterisk belongs next to Marks’s name. That race ran at an average speed of just 53.437 miles per hour, so there’s not a whole lot to be gained from it. The length was trimmed from 90 laps and 203.22 miles to 75 laps and 169.35 miles in 2015, so Smith’s win came in the first season at the shorter distance.
We don’t have a whole lot of good data to go on for this race, so take things easy this week and look ahead to next weekend at Bristol.
This race will be seen on NBC Sports Network on Saturday with a start time of 2:30 p.m. ET.
Odds as of August 9, 4 p.m. ET
Sam Hornish Jr +225
Justin Marks +450
JD Davison +650
Justin Allgaier +650
Regan Smith +700
Elliott Sadler +850
William Byron +850
Field (any other driver) +1150
Cole Custer +1350
Brendan Gaughan +1650
Ben Kennedy +2750
Daniel Hemric +2750
Scott Lagasse Jr +3300
Ryan Reed +3300
Brennan Poole +4400
Matt Tifft +4400
-END OF 2017 PREVIEW-
The drivers of the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series are enjoying a much-needed week off, but that doesn’t mean that there’s nothing going on. The Xfinity Series is making its annual stop at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course in Lexington, about 45 minutes northeast of Columbus, for the Mid-Ohio 200. This is the fourth running of this event and it is 75 laps around a 2.258-mile road course. Contrary to its name, the race is actually just under 170 miles.
This is the 21st race of the 26-race Xfinity Series regular season, so there aren’t a whole lot of opportunities left for drivers to improve their standing for the Xfinity Series Chase or to pick up victories. This is one of two races that will take place this month that will allow Xfinity Series drivers a great chance at winning because the Sprint Cup Series guys will be elsewhere. This race and also the race in two weeks at Road American in Elkhart Lake, Wisconsin represent opportunities for points-eligible drivers to get wins while not having to combat with the likes of Kyle Busch or Joey Logano.
This is the second straight road course race for the Xfinity Series. Last week, all of NASCAR was at Watkins Glen in Central New York. That race was won by Joey Logano. Through 20 races, points-eligible drivers have only secured six victories. One of those wins belongs to points leader Elliott Sadler. Sadler has an 11-point cushion over Daniel Suarez, who also has a win. Ty Dillon has not won a race, but his consistency throughout the season has him in third place with 629 points. Erik Jones has three wins this season, but a series of mishaps in other races has left him in fourth with 613 points. Justin Allgaier is fifth with 610 points.
The top 12 drivers in points will qualify for the Xfinity Series Chase. Wins do not carry the same weight as they do on the NASCAR side. If the playoffs started prior to this race, Brendan Gaughan, Brennan Poole, Brandon Jones, Darrell Wallace Jr., Ryan Reed, Ryan Sieg, and Blake Koch would all make the Chase. There is a little bit of drama, though. Koch is 27 points behind Sieg, so his final spot in the Chase is very much up for grabs. Koch leads Ross Chastain by just two points. Dakoda Armstrong is nine points back and Jeremy Clements is 14 points out. Koch finished 35th last week and Chastain finished 14th to close the gap.
This week’s race favorite at 5Dimes Sportsbook is Sam Hornish Jr. Hornish Jr. was victorious earlier this season at Iowa Speedway and was steamed two weeks ago when the series stopped in Iowa again, but he finished sixth. Those are the only two races for Hornish Jr. so far this year at the Xfinity Series level. Hornish Jr. has run this race twice. He was third in 2013 and 30th in 2014, though he did have the pole. He did not run in this event last year. His win at Iowa came in the #18 for Joe Gibbs Racing. He’s now running with Richard Childress Racing for the rest of the season.
The second favorites are names that will only be familiar to racing diehards. Nelson Piquet Jr. and Owen Kelly share that distinction at +575. Piquet Jr. is a “road course ringer”, dropping in for this event. He formerly ran in Formula One and Formula E. He hasn’t participated in a NASCAR Xfinity Series race since 2013 and he was on the circuit for the entire season. He finished 12th in points and never finished higher than eighth in a race. He was 27th at Mid-Ohio.
Owen Kelly hasn’t raced since this event in 2013, but he runs for Joe Gibbs Racing, so it’s not a surprise that he could be a threat. Kelly has finished three races at the Xfinity Series level. He was fifth at Road America in 2010 and fourth at Road America in 2013. He was 23rd in his only career start at Mid-Ohio. These two guys are getting a lot of respect in the betting markets for their road course backgrounds, but they haven’t proven a whole lot at this level.
Ryan Blaney is +600 this week. This will be the fourth start of the Xfinity Series season for Blaney, who hasn’t finished better than eighth. Blaney has run pretty well on road courses in the past, including a second last year at Road America. He’ll be running the #22 car for Team Penske this week. The 22-year-old is an Ohio native, so this race definitely means something a little bit more special to him, even though he’s from Cortland in the northeast part of the state.
Points-eligible drivers Daniel Suarez and Erik Jones both seem like decent bets at +700. They have Joe Gibbs Racing backing, which always makes them dangerous, and they should be able to navigate around the ringers and Blaney. Suarez was fourth last week at Watkins Glen and Jones was 12th. Suarez seems to be a little bit better of a road course racer than Jones, so he may be the better of the two picks.
The best value pick this week is Ty Dillon at +2300. Dillon was third in this race last year at Mid-Ohio and has been really consistent throughout the season. Dillon was 11th last week at Watkins Glen, but he has shown the propensity to run well in these road course events before. Dillon is definitely worth a flyer in what could be a pretty wide-open race.
Coverage of the Mid-Ohio 200 will be on USA Network on Saturday.