It is playoff time in the Xfinity Series. There are seven races left on the schedule and that means that the Round of 12 begins this week at Richmond Raceway with the Go Bowling 250. It is certainly good news for the drivers that the playoffs begin this week and that Cup Series guys cannot participate. Last year’s win for Christopher Bell was the first by a points driver in this event since Robby Gordon won in 2004.
Odds are on the right-hand side for desktop viewers and down below the comment box for mobile viewers as we get the playoffs underway.
The Playoff 12
Like the Cup Series, bonus points are awarded throughout the season that apply to scoring in the playoffs. Christopher Bell had 55 of those bonus points after two stage wins and the most laps led last week at Las Vegas and has an 11-point lead over Cole Custer and Tyler Reddick. All scores were reset to 2,000 points for those that are in the playoffs and then the bonus points were applied.
Austin Cindric is fourth with 2,017 points. Chase Briscoe is the highest of four rookies that qualified for the postseason. He has 2,012 points, which is the same total as Justin Allgaier. Michael Annett, who won the first race of the year at Daytona, is seventh with 2,009 points. Noah Gragson has 2,005 points and sits eighth. Each successive driver has one fewer point than the guy ahead of him, as Brandon Jones, Justin Haley, Ryan Sieg, and John Hunter Nemechek round out the 12 playoff competitors.
Basically, given the scores, Bell, Custer, and Reddick have a double bye into the championship race at Homestead-Miami, where the highest finisher of the final four left standing will take the title.
Revved Up for Richmond
America’s Premier Short Track is the .75-mile D-shaped oval in Henrico County, Virginia. This has the makings of an interesting first race. Though Custer won back in the spring, Cindric was second and Allgaier was third. Reddick was fourth and Bell was 16th. There aren’t likely to be any big surprises with this week’s results, as in somebody like Gragson or Jones coming away with the win, but the short track and some less experienced drivers that are amped up for the playoffs could create chaos.
Bell won this race last year and is the deserving favorite at +120. He swept the Richmond races last season. Custer is +330. Interestingly, Allgaier is a co-third favorite with Reddick. We haven’t seen Allgaier priced like the top three drivers on the circuit all season long, so this departure from the norm does stand out in a variety of ways.
Briscoe is +1100. The next price on the board is +2750. Like I said, don’t expect a lot of surprises.
In the Cup Series playoff race at Richmond this week, it certainly looks like Toyota has the upper hand. Things have been a bit more balanced at the Xfinity Series level, though, to be fair, a lot of Cup Series drivers have won and they win races regardless of automaker.
The spring Richmond race has been part of the Dash 4 Cash program in recent years. Bell and Custer have the wins for Toyota and Ford, respectively. The previous two winners were Chevy drivers in Kyle Larson and Dale Earnhardt Jr.
One thing that will be sort of interesting here is that this will be a night race in a cooler climate. Much like the Cup Series race, this is a 7:30 p.m. ET start time. Right now, sunny skies are in the forecast, but the temperatures will drop over the course of the race. Pit crews will have to be ready to make the necessary adjustments to the cars. Usually the best drivers and the best teams have the best crews, so you have to handicap that into the race this week.
Can Reddick win this race? Maybe. He’s 11th, 17th, 7th, and 4th in his four career Richmond starts. So probably not. With that in mind, Allgaier is probably the only guy capable of preventing a Bell or Custer win. That’s effectively your handicap for the winner in this race. No offense to the other drivers, but Reddick is better on bigger tracks and the other drivers just don’t have the wherewithal to run all that close here.
Maaaaaaaybe Cindric, who is a great road course racer and enjoys the tighter conditions. Still, I’d look at him next week on the Roval and his team is probably focused on keeping the car as clean as possible for that race.
So, Allgaier. Can he win? Sure, he could. He won the first stage here in the spring and his third-place finish was one of 11 top-five finishes during the regular season. He won five races last season, though none of those wins came at Richmond.
It looks like Bell or Custer this week.
So, which one do you like more? For me, despite the low price, it has to be Bell. He’s won here twice. He drives a Toyota. When he hasn’t wrecked or had a mechanical failure, he’s run at the front of the pack and has a ton of stage wins this season. The +120 price is far from sexy, but he has to be the guy.
Cindric at +2750 is a decent home price to throw a few shekels on, but that’s really about it if you don’t want to take Custer or Allgaier.