Last Updated: 2017-11-15
A champion will be crowned in the Xfinity Series this week at Homestead-Miami Speedway at the conclusion of the Ford EcoBoost 300. It is championship weekend for NASCAR, with the Camping World Truck Series, Xfinity Series, and Monster Energy Cup Series final races all this weekend at the 1.5-mile oval in Homestead, Florida. This is the only stop of the season at this track.
Two rookies made it into the final four and the top two veterans on the circuit also have a shot at the title. No Cup Series drivers will be in the field this week, so it will simply be a battle between the guys that regularly run on the Xfinity Series, plus those that have made some cameo appearances. The four drivers eligible for the title are William Byron, Elliott Sadler, Justin Allgaier, and Daniel Hemric. All four drivers have had their point totals reset to 4,000 and the top finisher out of those four will be crowned the champion.
It has been an interesting season, as four rookies finished in the top seven and the grizzled veterans Sadler and Allgaier ran at the front of the pack most of the year. We’ll have to see if guys like Tyler Reddick, Christopher Bell, and Ryan Preece run more races next season, as that trio has had a major impact down the stretch. The 10-race cap for drivers with at least five years of Cup Series experience made things a lot more interesting, since people like Kyle Busch couldn’t go wire-to-wire every other race. We’ll see what other changes are made for next season, but the Xfinity Series season has been one of the better ones in recent memory with those changes in place.
Last week’s winner at Phoenix is this week’s favorite at Homestead. William Byron is +325 to take down the win and the title at 5Dimes Sportsbook. Byron snagged his fourth win of the year, which is more than the other three drivers still eligible for the championship combined. Byron’s win was his first since the win at Indianapolis Motor Speedway back on July 22. He was already a shoe-in for the final four, but it was still nice to grab that win and he rides into this race as the favorite as a result. We don’t have any track data for the rookie, except for the fact that he won the Camping World Truck Series race here last year. It was one of the seven wins that he had for Kyle Busch Motorsports. The 19-year-old has a great shot to win this race, which should be a pretty clean one given the 1.5-mile track and the flatter straightaways.
Ryan Preece is the second favorite at +450. Preece was only contracted to run four Xfinity Series races and he has finished second, first, and fourth in those three starts. His win came at Iowa in a race without the Cup Series guys on hand. Even though Preece only ran four of the 33 races, he is 30th in points out of 82 guys that accumulated points this season. The 27-year-old had one top-10 finish last season while running all of the Xfinity Series races. He was 28th at Homestead in 2014 and 21st at Homestead in 2016. What a difference equipment makes, now that he is part of the Joe Gibbs Racing team. He’s been running near the front of the pack, so he clearly has a good chance to win this one, especially with the JGR #20 car on a 1.5-mile track. Two of the last three winners have been JGR cars, including Daniel Suarez last year.
Christopher Bell is +500 this week. Bell has run each of the last three races and had a win at Kansas, a sixth at Texas, and a fourth last week at Phoenix. Bell has seven starts this season, with three top-five finishes. The 22-year-old won the regular season crown for the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series and is running in the Xfinity Series for the first time this season. He’ll run the #18 car that usually belongs to Kyle Busch, so you know he’ll have a good vehicle. Will that be enough? It certainly could be, since he hasn’t finished lower than sixth in his last four starts. That is the problem with a race like this. There are no Cup Series guys to push teammates forward and we have some guys with good finishes that are out there to collect paychecks rather than win championships. Will that change the race dynamics? It certainly could, which is why betting on the Ford EcoBoost 300 is a challenge.
Sam Hornish Jr. also slides into the mix this week at +550. Hornish won the road course race at Mid-Ohio and hadn’t really done much in his other three starts until he finished second at Charlotte. Hornish seems like a guy that you would peg more for road courses than ovals, so he isn’t really on the radar this week. The 38-year-old hasn’t run at Homestead since 2013, when he finished eighth.
Justin Allgaier and Elliott Sadler have to be considerations at +650 and +750, respectively. They may have to take a few more chances because the odds board would suggest that Byron will have some JGR help if he is up at the front of the pack. Allgaier does have three top-five finishes in the playoff races. Sadler only has one, but he has been the most consistent of the four guys left standing with five top-10 finishes. Allgaier was sixth last year at Homestead. Sadler was third. Given the dollar price difference, Sadler would be the preferred option.
One of the first few names on the board should win this race, but those in search of a long shot should look at Matt Tifft at +2500. Tifft has six top-10 finishes over his last seven races and was just eliminated from championship contention. His best finishes this season have come on road courses, so maybe he’ll grab one of those wins in the future, but he’s been running pretty well on ovals in his rookie season as well.
Coverage of the Ford EcoBoost 300 will be on NBC Sports Network at 3:30 p.m. ET.
Odds as of November 15, 9:45 a.m. ET
William Byron +325
Ryan Preece +450
Christopher Bell +500
Sam Hornish Jr +550
Tyler Reddick +600
Justin Allgaier +650
Elliott Sadler +750
Daniel Hemric +1500
Cole Custer +1750
Matt Tifft +2500
Austin Cindric +2500
Ben Kennedy +2500
Field (any other driver) +2500
Brennan Poole +3500
Brendan Gaughan +4400
Brandon Jones +7500
Ryan Reed +7500
Scott Lagasse Jr +15000
-END OF 2017 PREVIEW-
It’s hard to believe how quickly this year has flown by in a lot of respects. Take the fact that it’s the final weekend of the NASCAR season as an example. The Xfinity Series will come to a close on Saturday with the Ford EcoBoost 300, not to be confused for the Ford EcoBoost 400, which is the Sprint Cup Series finale. This is the 33rd and final race of the Xfinity Series season, which featured the Xfinity Series Chase for the first time and the development of some drivers that will step up in class full-time next season.
Four drivers are still standing with a shot to win it all and the names should not come as a surprise to anybody. Elliott Sadler, the wily veteran, Daniel Suarez, the super sophomore, Justin Allgaier, Mr. Consistency, and Erik Jones, the top prospect, comprise the four drivers that will battle it out for the inaugural Xfinity Series Chase championship. A lot of other cars will be running around the track, but the highest finisher among these points-eligible drivers will be crowned the champion of the season.
In terms of points-eligible drivers, these four have won nine of the 11 checkered flags claimed by those taking up spots in the standings. Sadler won three races, including the first race of the Chase at Kentucky. Suarez won two races, including the second race of the Chase at Dover. Allgaier did not win any races, but this seems like it would be an ideal time to change that. Jones won four races, but he also had his share of terrible finishes due to wrecks, driver error, or mechanical failure.
It’s good that Kyle Busch isn’t going to be involved in the Ford EcoBoost 300 because he finished his season with a win last week at Phoenix. That was his 10th Xfinity Series win in 17 starts. Austin Dillon had two wins. Joey Logano had two wins. Denny Hamlin won one of his two starts. Chase Elliott won the first race at Daytona. Aric Almirola won the second race at Daytona. Road course ringer Michael McDowell won at Road America.
The only racer not accounted for with a win at the Xfinity Series level this season is Kyle Larson. He’s this week’s overwhelming favorite at Homestead-Miami according to 5Dimes Sportsbook at +125. Larson has two Xfinity triumphs this season, with a win at Pocono and a win at Texas just two weeks ago. Larson is the reigning champion of this race. He’s shown terrific speed all season long, but he hasn’t been able to translate all of those runs into good finishes. He has nine straight top-five finishes in Xfinity Series starts and 11 overall this season. He’s always a factor and he looked great in this race last year.
Erik Jones is +350 to win this week and take the Xfinity Series Chase championship down with him in the process. With the backing of Joe Gibbs Racing, Jones has great equipment and he’s an extremely talented driver, but he’s gotten himself into trouble a lot this season. He’s turned pole position starts into finished of second, first, 31st, second, 27th, 33rd, 28th, and 16th this season. He’s a hot prospect and a guy that will race with the big boys, but he’s also a kid still learning how to pick his spots. In a race with this much pressure, he may be the top finisher among the four drivers eligible for the title, but he may not be able to seal the deal here. He hasn’t won a Chase race yet.
Daniel Suarez is the hottest driver on the circuit and the +650 price tag looks like a bargain. Suarez is on a stretch of seven straight top-five finishes, including a win at Dover earlier in the Chase. He’s been the most consistent driver in recent weeks and the sophomore racer’s confidence is growing with each passing week. Suarez was sixth here at Homestead last year, so he ran well on this course. He’s also a Joe Gibbs driver, so he has the equipment advantage over many in the field as well. He’s the top value on the board, even though he’s only won two of his 32 Xfinity starts to date.
Austin Dillon is plenty capable of taking this race. He was second last year and has two top-five finishes in three starts at Homestead-Miami. Dillon was close last week at Phoenix for his best finish since he won at Bristol. At +750, he’s another guy that possesses some pretty decent value. He’s struggled a little bit of late at this level, but he still managed 10 top-five finishes at this level this year.
Elliott Sadler and Justin Allgaier are both +1150 to take down the race and win the title. Sadler did win at Kentucky on a 1.5-mile track to kick off the Xfinity Series Chase and he’s run pretty well on other 1.5-mile tracks this season. He’s also the most experienced of the four guys vying for the title, so maybe the nerves won’t be as prominent for him. Allgaier has not won a race all season, despite having 13 top-five finishes. He hasn’t finished higher than third since the race at Bristol and two of his top-fives are on restrictor plate tracks. If this is the week to get that first win, it will make Allgaier a champion.
NBC Sports Network will have coverage of the Xfinity Series Ford EcoBoost 300 championship race on Saturday afternoon.
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