FORT WORTH, Texas (October 30, 2018) — The NASCAR Xfinity Series makes its second trip of the season to the Lone Star State for Saturday’s O’Reilly Auto Parts 300, the second of three Round of 8 NASCAR Playoff races (3:30 p.m. CT, TV: NBCSN; Radio: SiriusXM, PRN and 95.9 FM The Ranch locally).
Here are “5 Things You Need To Know” about the NASCAR Xfinity Series and the O’Reilly Auto Parts 300 heading into this weekend at Texas Motor Speedway:
- “MONSTER-FREE” – Ryan Blaney won April’s My Bariatric Solutions 300 at Texas Motor Speedway while Erik Jones swept both Xfinity Series race in 2017. In fact, a full-time Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series driver has won 10 of the last 12 Xfinity Series races at Texas Motor Speedway. But that won’t be the case this Saturday as NASCAR has placed a rule that restricts full-time Cup drivers from appearing in all Xfinity Series Playoff races.
- “MEN AT WORK” – Christopher Bell and Justin Allgaier, who combined for 11 wins this season, will have their work cut out for them on Saturday. Bell and Allgaier trail championship points leader Elliott Sadler by 13 and 18 points, respectively. Both drivers crashed out on the first lap two weeks ago in Kansas, putting some unexpected pressure on the two regular-season dynamos. Bell is among the four currently about the cutline to advance, but is just one point ahead of fifth-place Matt Tifft. Allgaier is sixth and trails Bell by five.
- “TOP-10 MACHINES” – Elliott Sadler and Cole Custer have yet to visit Victory Lane this season, but that hasn’t stopped the two drivers from being two of the most consistent performers in the Xfinity Series. Custer and Sadler lead all drivers with 23 top-10s apiece, which includes the April’s My Bariatric Solutions 300 at Texas where they finished fourth and eighth, respectively.
- “ALL IN A DAY’S WORK” – The Xfinity Series will have same-day, knock-out qualifying for Saturday’s O’Reilly Auto Parts 300. Salute to Veterans Qualifying Fueled by Texas Lottery will begin at 12:40 p.m. CT Saturday, a little less than three hours prior to the start of the race.
- “ONE-STOP SHOPPING” – Stay up to date in real time on everything going on at Texas Motor Speedway over the course of the AAA Texas 500 tripleheader weekend by visiting TMS SpeedReads, the official blog of the TMS Media Relations Department. The content is provided by veteran motorsports journalist John Sturbin. TMS Media Relations will provide a preview budget for each day as well as a recap at the conclusion of the day’s events.
SADLER BUT TRUE
The 2018 NASCAR Xfinity Series season will be the last for veteran driver Elliott Sadler, who will hang up his racing gloves and helmet for good after the season finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway on Saturday, Nov. 17.
The 43-year-old leads the NASCAR Xfinity Series championship points standings entering Saturday’s O’Reilly Auto Parts 300 and has been one of the series’ most consistent drivers over the last decade, finishing second in those standings four times since joining the series on a full-time basis in 2011.
And while Elliott has never visited Victory Lane at Texas Motor Speedway as an Xfinity Series driver, the native of Emporia, Va., still owns the record for the closest NASCAR finish in speedway history.
Elliott beat a hard-charging Kasey Kahne – who is retiring from full-time racing in the Cup Series after this season as well – by .028 of a second in the 2004 Samsung/RadioShack 500.
“Kasey was so fast there. I could see him coming. I could see him coming on the outside,” Sadler recalled. “And I could play the lap in my head. We were catching Johnny Sauter to lap him, and I didn’t know if he was going to give us the bottom or the middle. I was trying to figure out whether to block high or low. I didn’t know if we were going to make it with five to go, four to go, and I could see the 9 coming. I wondered if the checkered flag would ever fall.”
Now the checkered flag is about to fall on their careers. Kahne was set to retire at the end of the season, but had to withdraw even earlier than planned due to a battle with “extreme dehydration.”
For Sadler, the final trip across the finish could end with a championship celebration. Sadler hasn’t missed making the Championship 4 since the elimination-style Playoff format was introduced in 2016, and he currently is in position to make it for the third consecutive season.
Sadler’s playoff performance hasn’t been up to his normal consistency though, putting up just one top-five and two top-10s finishes in the first four races of the postseason. The highlight was the third-place finish recently at Kansas. But Texas Motor Speedway could provide the perfect setting to not only get a win, but earn an automatic bid into the Championship 4 race in South Florida.
“I definitely want to win a championship; that’s what I have strived for my whole career,” Sadler said. “We have come really close. Win, lose, or draw, we’ll put our best foot forward. If we don’t win a championship, it will bother me; there will be some sleepless nights.”
THANKS FOR THE MEMORIES
With Elliott Sadler and Kasey Kahne both walking away from NASCAR at the end of this season, let’s take a moment to look back at the two rivals, teammates and friends over the years here at Texas Motor Speedway.
KANSAS HITS PUREE BUTTON ON XFINITY PLAYOFFS
The NASCAR Xfinity Series Round of 8 opener on Oct. 20 at Kansas Speedway sure put the standings into a blender.
Championship favorites Christopher Bell (six wins) and Justin Allgaier (five wins) dropped to fourth and sixth, respectively, while winless drivers Elliott Sadler and Daniel Hemric sit atop the standings, respectively, with just two races remaining in the Round of 8.
Heading into Kansas, the top two drivers in the championship standings were Bell, who won two races in the opening round of the Playoffs, and Justin Allgaier, the regular-season champion. Both were full of confidence and bolstered by hefty point gaps over the rest of the Playoff contenders. However, all that changed when a multi-car incident on Lap 1 at Kansas collected four Playoff drivers – Christopher Bell, Justin Allgaier, Cole Custer and Austin Cindric.
Following the race at Kansas, all eight NASCAR Xfinity Playoff drivers are now within 56 points of each other with two races left – Texas and Phoenix – to decide who makes it to the Championship 4 and race for the title at Homestead-Miami Speedway on Sunday, Nov. 17.
PENALTY SHOULDN’T SLOW DOWN HEMRIC
Richard Childress Racing’s Daniel Hemric should be plenty motivated by the time the NASCAR Xfinity Series arrives in Texas. After grabbing the top spot in the standings following Kansas, Hemric and his team were docked 10 points after failing post-race inspection when the left-front of the car was deemed to be too low.
The penalty moved him into second – one point behind leader Elliott Sadler – but it allowed fifth-place Matt Tifft to close to 13 points of him as the eight drivers battle for four positions to advance to the championship.
Looking to earn a spot in the Championship 4 for the second consecutive season before making the step up to the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series next season, Hemric’s 2018 Xfinity campaign has been solid with 14 top-fives and 20 top 10s – both of which are career highs.
Hemric has improved with every start at Texas Motor Speedway. After a 32nd-place finish in his TMS debut in April of 2017, Hemric finished 14th last November and placed third in April’s My Bariatric Solutions 300, a race in which he also led 39 laps.
DON’T DRIFT ON TIFFT
Richard Childress Racing’s Matt Tifft is fifth in the NASCAR Xfinity Series Playoff standings, which puts him only one point behind Christopher Bell for the final transfer spot to the Championship 4.
Heading into Kansas, Tifft was 41 points behind the cut-off spot, but after a solid sixth-place finish in Kansas, Tifft heads to Texas with a very serious chance to earn a spot into the season finale.
The Xfinity Series sophomore season has been a solid improvement over his rookie campaign, earning five top-fives, 16 top-10s and an average finish of 13.2. He’s even led 38 laps compared to just 11 in 2017.
Tifft finished 32nd at Texas Motor Speedway in April, but has been solid in the postseason, thus far, posting three top 10s in the first four races.
GAS ’N GO
- For most of the season, Christopher Bell has run away with the lead in the NASCAR Xfinity Series Sunoco Rookie of the Year standings. But after bowing out on the first lap in Kansas, Bell has surrendered the lead to Tyler Reddick, who now sits 10 points ahead of Bell with just three races to go.
- The No. 42 Chip Ganassi Chevrolet team currently sits on top of the NASCAR Xfinity Series owner standings, 50 points ahead of the No. 1 JR Motorsports Chevrolet team in second place and 51 points ahead of the No. 21 Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet team.