Last Updated: 2017-04-20
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
-END OF 2017 PREVIEW-
A lot of people probably don’t pay a lot of attention to the NASCAR Xfinity Series. You should on Saturday. This is the first attempt at the new “Dash 4 Cash” format, which happens four times during the Xfinity Series season. It’s a great time to do it, as even the Xfinity Series races draw about 100,000 people at Bristol Motor Speedway each year. The title sponsor this year has crowned this race the Fitzgerald Glider Kits 300 and its format is unlike anything we have ever seen.
This weekend’s race on Saturday will feature two 50-lap heat races and then a 200-lap feature race. Only points-eligible drivers are able to win the bonuses during the Dash 4 Cash races and the highest finishing driver will pick up a $100,000 bonus for his efforts. The top two drivers from each heat will be eligible for the bonus. Drivers can also guarantee a spot in the Xfinity Chase, another new wrinkle for the circuit, by being the highest points-eligible finisher in two of the four Dash 4 Cash bonus races.
Heat fields are determined by qualifying. The odd-numbered qualifiers by position will run in Heat 1 and the even-numbered qualifiers will run in Heat 2. This should be a really great addition to the Xfinity Series circuit and give the drivers a lot of incentive in the four races that have this new format. The other races are next week’s Toyota Care 210 at Richmond, the Dover 200 on May 14, and the Lilly Diabetes 250 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway on July 23. Bristol is the longest of these races.
As far as points-eligible drivers go, Daniel Suarez has a one-point edge over Elliott Sadler for the top spot. Suarez seemed to be finding a groove with three straight top-five finishes before ending up 16th at Texas. He has 207 points. Sadler has 206 points and made up some ground be finishing seventh last week. Justin Allgaier has five top-12 finishes, which is good for third place with 198 points. Rookie Brandon Jones has a one-point edge over fellow rookie Erik Jones, no relation, with 193 points and 192 points, respectively.
Outside of the excitement of the heat races, there is a lot at stake in the Fitzgerald Glider Kits 300. Somebody needs to knock Kyle Busch off of his perch. Kyle picked up yet another Xfinity Series win last week and has won four of the five races that he has started and he has led the most laps in each and every one of them. By leading 150 of the 200 laps last week at Texas Motor Speedway, Busch has now led 776 of the last 913 laps on the Xfinity Series side of things. That’s about as dominant as one can get in motor sports.
Therefore, Kyle Busch is this week’s race favorite at +140 at 5Dimes Sportsbook. Busch is a four-time winner of this event, with wins in 2006, 2011, 2013, and 2014. He probably would have won last season, but he was injured. He’s also a four-time winner of the summer race, so he’s won eight Nationwide/Xfinity Series races at Bristol. He’ll probably make it nine, but a dominant driver creates value for the other names on the board.
Joey Logano, the winner last year in Kyle Busch’s absence, is second on the odds board at +450. Logano actually went wire-to-wire in this race, leading all 300 laps last year. Logano also has one win in the summer race. This is Logano’s first Xfinity Series start since the opener of the NASCAR season at Daytona. He finished second. Logano had three wins on the Xfinity Series side last season, so he should be a threat this week.
We see Kevin Harvick drop down to run with the Xfinity guys this weekend. Harvick is a three-time winner of this race and he is +550 to make himself a four-time winner. Harvick has finished 12th and sixth in his two starts this season, but he seems to use these Xfinity events as a chance to get a feel for the track and how it’s running. Harvick won two races last year and had some top-10 finishes, but he didn’t dominate the way you would expect from a guy with his skill set.
Erik Jones is going off at +775 and that seems like a pretty reasonable price. He may not be experienced enough in traffic to grab a win at a short track, especially one with difficult, steep banking in the turns. Jones is NASCAR’s top prospect and he has shown it for the most part this season. He ran into trouble at Daytona, finishing 31st to open the season, but he’s finished third twice and second twice in the other five races. Jones was fourth at Bristol last season and is points-eligible for the first time this season. The Dash 4 Cash format could pay dividends for him this week.
Another Joe Gibbs Racing member, Daniel Suarez, is still looking for that elusive first win. Suarez seemed to be on the cusp, but he came back down to reality after a 16th-place finish at Texas. Suarez was in the top 10 in each of the first five races this season. You would expect a young driver to struggle with things as bunched up as they get at Bristol, but he was second and fifth in the two races last season. If he doesn’t win the feature, it wouldn’t be a surprise if he was $100,000 richer after this weekend.
Kyle Larson might be a sneaky pick here at +1000. Larson didn’t run the spring race last year, but he finished second in the summer race. Larson hasn’t impressed too much at the Xfinity Series level this season, but he did finish second at Atlanta. With a jumbled-up field, anything can happen here this week and he could sneak his way to the top.
Fox Sports 1 will have everything you need for Saturday’s race, which begins at 12:30 p.m. ET.