The first of two stops at Richmond for the Xfinity Series is this weekend with the ToyotaCare 250. This is the second of four Dash 4 Cash events for the top “minor league” of NASCAR, which means that Cup Series participation is verboten once again this week. Christopher Bell’s win last week not only got him some more points and a pay day, but it was also the fifth for Toyota in the last six races.
Will somebody step up and challenge Toyota in a race that bears its name on the marquee or will it be another week in the winner’s circle for the sport’s top manufacturer?
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When The Cup Guys Are Away…
The Cup guys aren’t away, per se, they just aren’t allowed to come out to play. This will be the first night race of the Xfinity Series season, so that presents a little bit of a different look for the drivers. They won’t have another one until July 5 at Daytona. It will also provide a different look for the teams. It will be warm and humid in Richmond this weekend with showers in the forecast throughout, so this one could be a little bit arduous for all involved.
Not only are points and playoff spots on the line and up for grabs in these Dash 4 Cash races, but also cold, hard cash.
Both the Xfinity Series and the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series will be idle next weekend for the Easter holiday before tackling Talladega in two weeks. That race and the race at Dover on May 4 will also be D4C events.
Beating Around the Busch
Kyle Busch has three wins this season. Points-eligible drivers have four. Two belong to last week’s winner Christopher Bell. Michael Annett won the race at Daytona and Cole Custer won the race at Auto Club Speedway, which was an impressive win because Busch led the most laps and won the first two stages, but finished second to Custer.
A points guy will win this week, unless the victory goes to a driver that isn’t full-time, but is still eligible to run. The Xfinity Series playoffs feature the top 12 drivers and a win means automatic entry, unless there are more than 12 points-eligible drivers with a win. Since that won’t happen, these are important races for guys because wins also mean extra playoff points.
There has been less Cup participation this season overall, so a lot of drivers have top-five finishes, including some surprises, like rookies Noah Gragson and John Hunter Nemechek, who did win a race last year at Kansas during the playoffs.
Handicapping Friday’s Race
Bell did win this race last year, though. He also won the September race at Richmond that kicked off the playoffs. That’s one of many reasons why he’s a big favorite this week. Second place here actually went to Gragson, who ran three Xfinity races last year and was second, fourth, and seventh. Elliott Sadler and Matt Tifft ran third and fourth. Neither guy is running in the Xfinity Series this year.
Austin Cindric finished fifth. He’s a better road course racer than oval racer, so you’ll want to look for him in those races, as he was second at Mid-Ohio, third on the Charlotte Roval, and fourth at Pocono, which has some road course elements. He was third, fourth, and fifth to end the year on ovals, but has not finished higher than fifth this year.
The long shot to look at this week is Chase Briscoe once again. He was tipped in last week’s article as a beer money guy and he finished fourth for the second straight week.
Perhaps the time is now to hop on Justin Allgaier. He led the most laps and won the first two stages last week at Bristol, but his car failed him with a drop in power and a blown tire. That was all she wrote. It was his best run since finishing third at Atlanta. Maybe the 31st-place finish snuck past the oddsmakers a little bit with his price tag at +
Per usual, it’s hard to go after long shots in these Xfinity Series races. Cole Custer had the pole last week and finished third. Aside from running into trouble in Texas, he’s got a stage win, an overall win, three other top-five finishes, and poor finish on the plate track at Daytona.
Tyler Reddick hasn’t won yet, but he’s been runner-up in back-to-back weeks and has five top-five finishes and a stage win in his last six races. There are a lot of guys that can be in the hunt in these Dash 4 Cash races. Bell is still the best and on the best team, but there are a lot of guys that could very well take that checkered flag. It feels like this is the best crop of racers for the Xfinity Series in a little while.
A pick on Chris Bell makes a ton of sense this week, especially after he won both Richmond races last year, but that’s been factored into the price, especially with last week’s win. There isn’t much value on him this week. Cole Custer and Justin Allgaier are certainly worth half-unit bets and a quarter of a unit on our dark horse Chase Briscoe should be a good starting point for this race.
See what happens with both qualifying and the weather for the Friday night race and maybe adjust accordingly, as guys who start fast but struggle late could catch a break from a red-flagged race.