Last Updated: 2018-03-07
The fourth race of the Xfinity Series season is here and it’s hard to believe that we are almost a month into the NASCAR calendar already. This weekend’s race is the DC Solar 200 at ISM Raceway in Avondale, Arizona, which most readers probably know by its previous name, Phoenix International Raceway.
It was a pretty good week for Xfinity Series drivers in last week’s Boyd Gaming 300 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. Though a points-eligible driver failed to win for the second straight week, three points drivers finished in the top five. Kyle Larson took the win, but he will not have a chance to start a streak because he is not running this week.
Through three races, we have a tie at the top. Tyler Reddick, who won the PowerShares QQQ 300 to open the season, has 123 points and so does Elliott Sadler, who has three top-five finishes on the season. Christopher Bell, who was 39th in the season opener, has finished third and second over the last two weeks, including the win in last week’s first stage. He has 100 points. Justin Allgaier is fourth with 95 points and Spencer Gallagher is fifth with 89 points, but just five points separate fifth from ninth. Reddick is the only points driver with a win, but the drivers will have three chances to get wins in April with the Dash 4 Cash races at Bristol, Richmond, and Talladega, which Cup drivers cannot race in.
The one-mile dogleg oval at Phoenix has undergone some changes, as the pit road area has been reconfigured and the stands will look a bit different for drivers. Beyond that, it is about the same track it has always been and points driver Justin Allgaier won this race last year.
Kyle Busch is in the race, therefore Kyle Busch is the race favorite at 5Dimes Sportsbook at +105. Busch has six wins in this race and four more in the fall race, so this has been a very good track for him at this level. He was 14th in his first start of the season last year at his hometown track in Las Vegas. For all of Busch’s Xfinity success, his only Cup Series win at Phoenix came all the way back in 2005, but he has quite a few top-five finishes along the way. Busch’s 14th-place finish last week is his lowest since the second Bristol race back in 2006. Last year he finished 12th at Indianapolis, but led the most laps, so it’s not like he had a bad run. He hasn’t run this race since 2016, but he also hasn’t done anything other than win or finish second in this race since 2012 when he has been in it. That makes it hard to go against him.
Brad Keselowski is +175 this week as he makes his 2018 Xfinity Series debut. Keselowski did not run either Phoenix race last year at this level and only had two wins in his nine starts. That’s not to say he can’t win this, as every Cup driver is capable of winning at this level, but it is a low price for Keselowski to say the least. He hasn’t won a Phoenix race at this level in his last three tries and only has one win over the last two years at this level. There’s no reason to take a price this low with him.
Jamie McMurray is +600 this week. McMurray is a surprise entry in this race. The 41-year-old ran one Xfinity race back in 2013 and one in 2012 and those are the only ones that he has been in since 2011. He hasn’t had a ton of success at Phoenix, but did win the Xfinity Series fall race back in 2004. He was second at Phoenix back in 2015, but that is his only top-five here dating back to 2008. He is a name and a noteworthy driver because of his stature as a regular, but not worth a bet this week.
Christopher Bell is +775 and seems to be the cream of the crop among points drivers this year. We’ll see how he fares with the tighter racing conditions on a one-mile track. The 23-year-old has run really well on 1.5-mile tracks, though he did lead the most laps last year at Iowa on the .875-mile track in Newton. That was also a race without the Cup Series guys, so we’ll have to wait and see. Perhaps he’s a better look next week on the two-mile track at Auto Club Speedway.
Everybody else is +1350 or higher, so there certainly are some value options on the board if you can find one. Allgaier is the driver at +1350 and he won this race last year. He was 10th in the fall race. Allgaier was second with the most laps led and stage win at Richmond. It looks like he is the best option outside of Kyle Busch.
Elliott Sadler ran well on the short track at Richmond with a seventh and a fifth, so maybe he’ll make his way towards the front of the pack at +2750. This looks like a pretty tough race to find value guys, even with Busch and Keselowski as such overwhelming favorites.
Coverage of the DC Solar 200 will be on Fox at 4 p.m. ET on Saturday.
Odds as of March 7, 5 p.m. ET:
Kyle Busch +105
Brad Keselowski +175
Jamie McMurray +600
Christopher Bell +775
Justin Allgaier +1350
Cole Custer +2000
Elliott Sadler +2250
Tyler Reddick +2750
Field (any other driver) +3000
Daniel Hemric +3300
Ty Dillon +4400
Brandon Jones +4400
Matt Tifft +20000
Ryan Truex +20000
Michael Annett +20000
Ryan Reed +20000
Austin Cindric +30000
Spencer Gallagher +30000
-END OF 2018 PREVIEW-
Three Xfinity Series races are in the books for the 2017 season and it’s surprising that one points-eligible driver has a win. It’s surprising when any points-eligible driver wins a race that features Cup Series guys. It seems a bit unfortunate that the Cup Series guys are allowed to participate in so many races and dominate, but money talks in all sports and all walks of life, so it is an essential part of the NASCAR landscape. As it is, Xfinity Series races don’t draw particularly well and would have skeleton crowds if the Cup guys weren’t involved.
Anyway, the next shot for the young drivers to prove themselves is this week’s DC Solar 200 at Phoenix International Raceway in Avondale, Arizona. NASCAR officials have taken some provisions to limit the participation of Cup Series drivers, but Cup guys finished first, second, third, fifth, seven, and 10th last week at Las Vegas, with Kyle Busch winning the first stage, Brad Keselowski winning the second stage, and Joey Logano winning the race. Through three races, Elliott Sadler has two stage wins and Ryan Reed has a win. Restrictor plate races are always a unique beast, so we’ll have to see how the Xfinity Series results go the rest of the way. Cup Series guys are not allowed to run in the Dash 4 Cash events or the playoff races. Remember that when the drivers return to Phoenix in November for the Ticket Galaxy 200 as the final race in the Round of 8.
Ranting and raving aside about giving the young guys opportunities, there are some interesting names near the top of the Xfinity Series standings. Elliott Sadler, who basically had The Elliott Sadler rule put in place to allow him to race for points at this level, is first with 99 points. Ryan Reed, the winner of the PowerShares QQQ 300, is second with 95 points. Rookie sensation William Byron is third with 90 points. Fellow rookie Daniel Hemric is fourth with 72 points. Darrell Wallace Jr. has back-to-back sixth-place finishes to be fifth with 70 points. Justin Allgaier has the best finish out of Xfinity Series points guys aside from Reed’s win, but he is 11th in points.
There aren’t as many Cup Series guys in this week’s race, so we could see some different things. The race favorite, however, is a big one in Erik Jones. Jones is +250 this week at 5Dimes Sportsbook. We normally see Kyle Busch favored in the +140 or +150 range, so the field is a little bit more spread out, but Jones is still a significant favorite. Kyle Busch has won this race six times, so it’s nice that somebody else has a chance. This is the second Xfinity Series race of the year for Jones, who was 32nd at Daytona. The 20-year-old was second here last year and fifth the previous year. He has three top-10 finishes in three fall race starts at Phoenix. He’s definitely been the most consistent of the guys in the field this week at Phoenix.
Daniel Suarez will start his engine for the third time in four Xfinity Series races. Neither Jones nor Suarez have enough years of experience in a Cup car to fall under the 10-race restriction, so we should see a lot of them this season at this level. Suarez is +525 this week. He finished third last week at Las Vegas. He was third in this race last year and fifth in the fall race at Phoenix. The year prior, he finished fourth in the fall race. Suarez has consistently run well at PIR, so he should be a factor near the top of the leaderboard on Saturday.
Ryan Blaney and Austin Dillon share a +550 price tag. This is Blaney’s first Xfinity Series start of the season. He’s running well on the Cup Series side thus far, so he’ll hope to see his success translate down a level. Blaney is sixth in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series standings. He hasn’t run at Phoenix at this level since 2013 and that was the fall race. He was 10th and eighth, respectively, in the two Cup Series races. Like Suarez and Jones, he is not subject to the 10-race restriction. Austin Dillon has three top-10 finishes in his three Xfinity Series starts. He hasn’t won at Phoenix, but his last three finishes are second, seventh, and 14th. He has several top-five finishes at this level at Phoenix and would be a good bet this week at +550.
Rookie William Byron is +650 this week. He hasn’t had much success with the trucks at this track and this will be his first stock car start at Phoenix. It’s interesting to see his price tag so low, ahead of guys like Elliott Sadler, Justin Allgaier, and Ty Dillon, but that speaks to how weak this field is without guys like Kyle Busch, Brad Keselowski, Joey Logano, Denny Hamlin, and Kyle Larson. Perhaps this could be the week for Byron. It seems like perception is going to outweigh reality in these races without a lot of Cup Series guys, so you’ll have to watch out for that. Until Byron proves he can consistently run near the top, his value simply won’t be there.
Speaking of Justin Allgaier, he’s a decent long shot at +1350. Allgaier finished fourth in both races at Phoenix last year. Sophomore Brennan Poole is +4400 this week. If you want a Hail Mary shot, Poole was 10th in this race last year as a rookie and 11th in the fall race, so he was competitive.
Coverage of the DC Solar 200 will be on Saturday afternoon at 4:00 p.m. ET on Fox.
<< Previous PostNext Post >>