Last Updated: 2018-11-08
There are only two races left in the 2018 Xfinity Series season and the playoffs have been extremely interesting. The best driver in the Xfinity Series could be on the outside looking in at a title shot for the Ford EcoBoost 300 at Homestead-Miami next week. That means that this is a huge race with a lot to follow as the drivers take on ISM Raceway for the Whelen Trusted to Perform 200.
This is the second stop of the year in the Phoenix area. The DC Solar 200 was the fourth race of the season and included Cup Series guys, as Brad Keselowski took down the win. This time around, there won’t be any Cup Series guys, so it is a wide-open field. Very important points are on the line and the winner could very well punch a last-second ticket to the final four. If the Xfinity Series wanted drama to get some headlines, they have it.
Tyler Reddick is the points leader with 3,105 points. He’s safe to advance. One of Elliott Sadler or Daniel Hemric will make it. Sadler has a one-point edge over Hemric. Cole Custer’s first win of the season could not have come at a better time, as he punched a ticket to the final four with that victory last week at Texas.
That means that three of the four spots are largely spoken for. Christopher Bell, who won four races during the regular season and two in the Round of 12, has finished 37th and 32nd the last two weeks, so he needs a win and that is the only way he’ll make it into the final four. Matt Tifft, Justin Allgaier, and Austin Cindric also need a win to automatically advance. Right now, Allgaier is fourth in points, but he trails Hemric by 12 points, so he really needs a win or one of Hemric or Sadler to not finish the race and also finish in the top-five himself to have a chance.
This is a good spot for the Xfinity Series to be in. The circuit’s best driver absolutely needs a win and arguably its most accomplished driver (Allgaier) needs a win. That will add a lot of intrigue to this week’s race.
It is Justin Allgaier that is favored at 5Dimes Sportsbook at +325 to get that win and advance. Allgaier is very strong at this level at Phoenix. He won the spring race in 2017 and has three additional top-five finishes on this track since his Xfinity Series return in 2016. He was 10th in this race last year, but that was the outlier. Allgaier won at Dover in the spring and finished third in the Round of 12, so he’s done well on the one-mile tracks.
Allgaier may be the horse for course play, but it is hard to bet against Christopher Bell at +400. Bell has been the best driver all season long and has simply run into bad luck in his last two races. Bell was fourth at Phoenix and one of just two Xfinity Series drivers to finish in the top five in the late-winter race at ISM Raceway. Bell has won on all sorts of tracks this season, including one-milers at Dover and New Hampshire. Bell’s back is against the wall, but he’s the best equipped to push through it and get to Victory Lane in this must-win situation.
John Hunter Nemechek, Daniel Hemric, and Cole Custer are all +750 this week. Hemric has won at least one stage in each of the last five races and in seven of the last nine races. Nemechek won the race in Kansas to open the Round of 8, but he wasn’t a full-time points driver, so he wasn’t even eligible for the playoffs. Custer’s win last week felt like it was coming for a while based on his year-to-date performances, but it’s real tough to go back on him this week.
Hemric would be the guy and, quite frankly, it’s hard to take anybody further down the board than him. Hemric was sixth at Phoenix in the first race and finished fifth here last year.
We almost had some big surprises last week, as Tyler Reddick finished second and led the most laps. He’s not getting much respect for it, though, as he’s +3300 this week. Matt Tifft also needs a win and he’s +3300. Austin Cindric is +2650. With a race that is usually very clean and very fast, it’s about equipment and those smaller teams just don’t have enough to really stack up in the arms race in this type of event.
Spread some money around on Allgaier, Bell, and Hemric and also tune in for this race, as this is the most dramatic Xfinity Series race we’ve had in a while and these guys have really been battling well all season.
Coverage of the 2018 Whelen Trusted to Perform 200 will be on NBC at 3:30 p.m. ET on Saturday November 10.
Odds as of November 8, 9:30 a.m. ET:
Justin Allgaier +325
Christopher Bell +420
John Hunter Nemechek +750
Daniel Hemric +750
Cole Custer +750
Ryan Preece +1150
Elliott Sadler +2250
Austin Cindric +2650
Field (any other driver) +3000
Matt Tifft +3300
Tyler Reddick +3300
Brandon Jones +3800
Ryan Truex +11500
Spencer Gallagher +11500
Shane Lee +11500
Ryan Reed +22500
Ty Majeski +30000
Michael Annett +33000
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