Last Updated: 2018-04-11
Why wouldn’t the Food City 300 be before the Food City 500? The Xfinity Series is in attendance at Bristol Motor Speedway for this weekend’s Fitzgerald Glider Kits 300. Apparently Food City wanted some bang for its buck in August when NASCAR returns to town for another weekend of racing.
In any event, this is a special weekend for the Xfinity Series. The Fitzgerald Glider Kits 300 is the first of four Dash 4 Cash events, which means that money is on the line for drivers, but it also means that drivers with five or more years of experience running for points at the Cup Series level are not allowed to participate. That means that guys like Kyle Busch, Kyle Larson, Kevin Harvick, Joey Logano, etc. are not permitted to race in these events. That opens up a lot of opportunities for young drivers.
This race has a different format this year, as drivers will run two stages of 85 laps and then the final stage of 130 laps. Last year, there were two 50-lap heat races and then a 200-lap feature. This year’s format mirrors the Cup Series format, whereas last year’s format was done to set up the field for the feature race. Drivers will run 159.9 miles around the 0.533-mile track.
This is the seventh race of the Xfinity Series season and the first time that the drivers have run in back-to-back weeks since March 10-17. Points-eligible drivers only have one of the six wins this season and that belongs to Tyler Reddick. Elliott Sadler doesn’t have a win, but he is up by 11 points on Reddick. Christopher Bell, who has four top-five finishes this season, is third with 208. Daniel Hemric is fourth with 203. Justin Allgaier rounds out the top five with 196 points. He is 15 points clear of Cole Custer. The top six drivers in points have 16 top-five finishes. The 37 remaining drivers with points have five.
This week’s favorite per 5Dimes Sportsbook is Christopher Bell at +325. As mentioned, Bell is the owner of four top-five finishes this season, including two runner-up finishes at Texas and Las Vegas. He won the first stage at Las Vegas. Bell has also had the pole three times and having the pole on a short track like this is very important, so that could give him a huge advantage in this race. The 23-year-old has nine top-10 finishes in his 14 Xfinity Series races. He did not run this race last season, so we’ll have to see how he adapts to the track, but he’s been great in qualifying on other tracks that he hadn’t previously run on at this level. He started his season last year at Charlotte.
Justin Allgaier checks in this week at +430. Allgaier had a modest run of three straight top-five finishes stopped last week at Texas when he finished 35th. He led the most laps at Phoenix, won the first stage, and had the pole, but finished second. He was also second at Auto Club Speedway. The 31-year-old is one of the more experienced racers at this level, but he also only has five career wins in 246 races. He has three top-five finishes in his last four starts at Bristol, so that explains the price, but he hasn’t really shown a knack for winning these events.
Both Cole Custer and John Hunter Nemechek are +650. Personally, I don’t get the prices for Custer. He was well up the board last week and finished fourth, but that was his first top-five finish of the season. The 20-year-old has 25 top-10 finishes in 44 career Xfinity Series races, but only one win. He only had two wins in 42 Camping World Truck Series races as well. Custer was 32nd and 10th at Bristol last year. Nemechek has two starts at this level this season. He was fourth at Atlanta and 29th at California due to a tire failure. Nemechek is running part-time in the #42 car, which explains why he has only filled in part-time. Kyle Larson usually runs that car. We know he has the car. Can he stay out of trouble on a crowded half-mile track? That’s the question for the 20-year-old.
Elliott Sadler is one of three drivers at +800 and, outside of Bell, this set of drivers at +800 are all better bets than the guys in front of them. Sadler hasn’t finished outside the top 10 this season, although he also hasn’t been higher than third since the crazy PowerShares QQQ 300 that Tyler Reddick won at Daytona. Sadler didn’t win a race all of last year either despite being the most experienced driver. He was fourth and third at Bristol.
Ryan Preece and Daniel Hemric are the others at +800. Preece won one of his four starts last year and has finished fifth or better in five of his six starts over the last two years. The 27-year-old ran full-time for JD Motorsports in 2016 and didn’t finish better than 10th. He signed a deal with Joe Gibbs Racing and now he’s a contender in each event he runs. How about that?
Hemric is really coming on strong. He had the pole at Daytona, but restrictor plate racing is a crapshoot and he finished 26th. He finished 11th, sixth, sixth, and now fifth and third. Among the +800 crowd, he may not be the smartest bet, as Preece and Sadler have shown more of a propensity to win, but Hemric does seem to have the most upside and he’d be my pick alongside Christopher Bell this week.
Coverage of the Fitzgerald Glider Kits 300 will be on Fox Sports 1 with a 1 p.m. ET start time on Saturday afternoon.
Odds as of April 11, 3 p.m. ET
Christopher Bell +325
Justin Allgaier +430
Cole Custer +650
John Hunter Nemechek +650
Elliott Sadler +800
Ryan Preece +800
Daniel Hemric +800
Tyler Reddick +1150
Austin Cindric +1650
Brandon Jones +1650
Chase Briscoe +2750
Matt Tifft +6600
Ryan Truex +11500
Shane Lee +11500
Ty Majeski +11500
Spencer Gallagher +20000
Ryan Reed +20000
-END OF 2018 PREVIEW-
The Xfinity Series is back in action this weekend after skipping over the Easter holiday. The drivers are in Bristol, Tennessee for the first of two trips to the Volunteer State this season. The first is the Fitzgerald Glider Kits 300. Bristol is one of the most iconic tracks and one of the loudest venues for racing, so that should add a little bit of excitement for some of the younger drivers looking to make a name for themselves.
Last year, this was a Dash 4 Cash event, but that won’t be the case this year. Instead, it is the standard 300-lap feature with 85 laps for Stage 1 and Stage 2, which is part of the NASCAR format change that allows drivers to get points for running well over the first 25 percent of the race and the second 25 percent of the race. Even though this isn’t a Dash 4 Cash race, many of the top NASCAR drivers that like to drop down and race on Saturday aren’t going to participate, so hopefully that will open the door for some of the others.
This is the seventh race of the Xfinity Series season. In a rare change of pace, points-eligible drivers have actually won two of the six races thus far. Points leader Elliott Sadler is not one of those winners, though. Sadler has 225 points. Rookie William Byron is second with 219 points and seems to be gaining confidence each week. Ryan Reed, who won the PowerShares QQQ 300 at Daytona to open the season, is third with 183 points. Darrell Wallace Jr. has finished sixth in each of the last five races and has 176 points. Justin Allgaier, the winner in Phoenix, is fifth with 174 points. Rookie Matt Tifft and rookie Daniel Hemric are sixth and seventh, respectively, with Brennan Poole, Michael Annett, and Blake Koch rounding out the top 10.
The Xfinity drivers didn’t run at Martinsville like the Cup Series guys did, so this will be the first small track of the season for a lot of them. That certainly changes the dynamics of a race, with some guys that aren’t used to fighting in close quarters to get position. That’ll be a wagering angle worth considering in this race.
Kyle Larson is the favorite this week at +175 according to 5Dimes Sportsbook. Larson is a formidable favorite, with a third, a second, and a first at this level this year. He didn’t run at Texas, but picked up the win at Auto Club Speedway in his last Xfinity start. Last year, Larson led the most laps and eventually finished third in both the spring and the summer Xfinity Series races at Bristol. Previously, he has three second-place finishes, a fifth, and a 26th at Bristol at this level. It’s tough to lay a chalky price like this on anybody but Kyle Busch, but Larson may simply be worth the investment this week.
The second favorite is third-year racer Erik Jones. Jones was a points-eligible racer in the Xfinity Series last season for the first time, but is a Cup Series rookie this year. He’s lined at +400 after winning this race last year to take home the first Dash 4 Cash race. This will be Jones’s fifth Xfinity start this season. He was 32nd at Daytona with the restrictor plate, but has since finished third, fourth, and first, with two stage wins. He led the most laps and took the checkered flag two weeks ago in the Lone State State. Jones was fourth at Bristol in 2015 and then finished first and 33rd last year. He did have the pole position in the summer race, but ran into some difficulties.
Ryan Blaney, who is having a solid year on the Cup Series side, is +450 this week. Blaney won the summer race in the then Nationwide Series in 2014. He’s finished runner-up twice in two starts this season and won the second stage in his first race at Phoenix. The 23-year-old last ran at Bristol in 2015 and finished 22nd. He was fourth in this race back in 2014, which is the last time he ran the spring race. Blaney is sixth in the Cup Series standings.
Austin Dillon and Daniel Suarez are both +750 this week. Dillon won the summer race last year at Bristol. This will be his sixth start at this level for this season. He has three top-five finishes, an eighth, and a 33rd. Suarez will take to the track for the fifth time in an Xfinity Series car. His best finish is third at Las Vegas, with three subpar finishes otherwise. Between these two, Dillon is the preferred option.
Two points-eligible guys are at +1150, with rookie upstart William Byron and seasoned vet Elliott Sadler. Sadler would be the preferred choice here, given his experience racing in tight conditions. Byron will get an Xfinity Series win soon, but it seems more likely that it will come on a bigger track. Byron won the second stage last week at Texas en route to finishing seventh. Sadler won the first two stages and led the most laps in the PowerShares QQQ 300 at Daytona, but couldn’t seal the deal. He hasn’t finished outside the top 10 since. If we had to project a spot for Byron to get his first win, the Charlotte native has a great shot at his home track next month.
Coverage of the Fitzgerald Glider Kits 300 can be seen on Fox Sports 1 on Saturday afternoon.
Odds as of 4/20:
Kyle Larson +175
Erik Jones +400
Ryan Blaney +450
Austin Dillon +750
Daniel Suarez +750
William Byron +1150
Elliott Sadler +1150
Justin Allgaier +1350
Field (any other driver) +1450
Ty Dillon +2250
Darrell Wallace Jr +3000
Matt Tifft +3300
Daniel Hemric +3300
Brendan Gaughan +5500
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